Oncology is the branch of medicine that researches, identifies, and
treats tumors, which is a term for cancer. A physician who works in the field
of oncology is called an oncologist. The main areas of oncology are radiation,
which is concerned with radiation treatment, or radiotherapy; surgical, which
is comprised of surgeons who specialize in tumor removal; medical, which deals
with cancer drugs, including chemotherapy; and interventional, which involves
interventional radiologists who specialize in minimally invasive image-guided
Diagnosis and treatment
Oncologists must first diagnose a cancer. Diagnosis is usually carried
out via biopsy, endoscopy, X-ray, CT scanning, MRI scanning, PET scanning,
ultrasound or other radiological methods. Nuclear medicine can also be used to
diagnose cancer, as can blood tests or tumor markers.
Once a diagnosis is made, an oncologist must discuss the disease stage
with the patient. Staging will dictate treatment of the cancer. Chemotherapy
— which is defined as the destruction of cancer cells — may be used,
as well as radiation therapy. Surgery can be used to remove tumors. Hormone
therapy can be used in certain types of cancers, and monoclonal antibody
treatments are gaining popularity. Research is currently being conducted into
cancer vaccines and immunotherapies.
Palliative care is also often used by oncologists to treat pain and
other symptoms of cancer.
Some of the most common areas affected by cancer include the colon and
rectum, breast, prostate and lung.
Connection to other branches of medicine
Oncology is often linked with hematology, which is the branch of
medicine that deals with blood and blood-related disorders.
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