Since there are many different types of cancer and different types of treatments, oncologists usually specialize in a particular area. (browse the directory to find a local oncologist)
The three main types of oncologists are medical, surgical and radiation oncologists;
Medical Oncologists specialize in treatment that uses chemotherapy drugs to kill cancer cells and reduce the size of tumors.
Surgical Oncologists focus on using surgery to remove cancerous tumors and often a margin of healthy tissue surrounding the tumor.
Since many patients require a combination of two or more of these treatments, an oncology team is formed to best treat each individual patient. Oncology teams can also include oncology nurses and social workers that specialize in helping people with cancer.
The role of an oncologist is to diagnose, educate and treat patients that are dealing with cancer. There can be several options for treatment and the side effects of each can be very serious. If someone’s health is already fragile some treatments may do more harm than good.
Some side effects of treatment may be temporary, such as hair loss and nausea. Others can be long term. The oncology team reviews the patient’s overall health, medical history, and cancer to determine the best treatment plan.
Other types of oncologists include gynecologic oncologists, pediatric oncologists and hematologist/oncologist;
Pediatric Oncologists treat children with cancer usually under the age of 18. Since children’s bodies are not fully developed yet, they respond differently to treatment than adults.
In addition to medical treatment of patients, oncologists are often also involved in the ethical decisions surrounding cancer patients and their treatment. Decisions regarding how much information to give patients about their disease, quality of life issues and do not resuscitate orders can all fall under the role on oncologist.
As more research is done and new discoveries are made in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, the field of oncology continues to change. There is an emerging field called palliative care which deals only with keeping the patient comfortable as they are treated for cancer or other diseases.
Oncologists are ultimately responsible for care and treatment of their patients from diagnosis through to recovery and subsequent follow-up visits. They are also increasingly involved with preventative screenings in otherwise healthy populations since early detection greatly increases survival rates.