An oncologist is a physician who works in the field of
oncology, the branch of medicine that deals with tumors, which is a specific
term for cancer. Oncologists work in three main fields: radiation
(radiotherapy), surgical and medical.
Other subspecialists in this field include gynecologic
oncologists, who treat women with cancer of the female-specific organs, and
pediatric oncologists, who treat children with cancer.
Oncologists first diagnose cancer using biopsy,
endoscopy, X-ray, CT scanning, MRI scanning, PET scanning, ultrasound or other
radiological methods. Nuclear medicine, as well as blood tests and tumor
markers, can also be used for diagnosis. Once diagnosed, oncologists discuss
the disease, including stage, with patients. Staging, in turn, dictates the
type of cancer treatment.
Areas of study
Radiation oncologists use high-energy X-rays to destroy
cancer cells. Radiation can be given as curative treatment, in or combination
with chemotherapy and/or surgery. Patients with incurable cancers may also be
seen by radiation oncologists for symptom relief.
Surgical oncologists are surgeons who specialize in the
surgical treatment of cancer and malignant disease. They work closely with
medical oncologists either before or after surgical removal of tumors to
provide effective care. Compared with non-surgical oncology, the training for
surgical oncologists is highly competitive and requires general surgery
The field of medical oncology deals mainly with
treatment using chemotherapy. Medical oncologists oversee and coordinate cancer
care, and specialize in the use of medications, such as chemotherapy, hormones
and analgesics to manage disease. Medical oncologists often coordinate care
with radiation and surgical oncologists.
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.
Additional information can be found by searching the following