The Different Types of Oncologists | The Benefits of Visiting an Oncologist
If you’ve been diagnosed with any type of cancer, it’s likely that you’ve been referred to or scheduled to see an oncologist. The diagnosis may be scary, but with modern medicine, there are many treatments that can dramatically improve your prognosis. An oncologist will thoroughly evaluate your condition and help you make the right choices moving forward.
What Is an Oncologist?
An oncologist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating people diagnosed with cancer. Oncologists in the U.S. receive extensive education and training, completing four years of medical school before starting their specialized training in oncology. Oncologists also must fulfill residency requirements and complete a fellowship in a specific oncology area.
What Is the Role of an Oncologist in Patient Care?
Oncologists oversee or manage the care of cancer patients, from diagnosis through treatment to a final outcome. As a part of that process, an oncologist will:
- Prescribe any tests necessary to determine the presence and extent of the cancer
- Fully discuss a cancer diagnosis with a patient, including an explanation of the type, nature, and spread of the cancer
- Identify all treatment options, and work cooperatively with the patient to establish a course of care
- Identify all potential side effects of treatment, and work with the patient to manage symptoms
Commonly, an oncologist is an integral part of a cancer management team, which may include radiologists, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, and other doctors.
What Are the Different Types of Oncologists?
Oncologists generally fall into three distinct categories:
- Medical oncologists—Medical oncologists generally use chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and other types of medication to treat cancer.
- Surgical oncologists—In many situations, a cancerous growth may be contained and surgically removed. Surgical oncologists specialize in performing these types of operations. Surgical oncologists are also typically involved in diagnosing cancer through the collection of biopsies, tissue samples that can be examined for the presence of cancer.
- Radiation oncologists—One of the commonly accepted modes of treatment for cancer is radiation therapy, where high-energy X-rays or other similar particles are targeted at cancer cells, thereby destroying them. Radiation oncologists are cancer specialists with expertise in the use of radiation therapy.
What Are the Common Types of Oncology Specialties?
Because different types of cancer behave differently and respond differently to various types of treatment, oncologists customarily focus on a particular type of cancer. Among the most common types of oncologists are:
- Pediatric oncologists, who focus on the types of cancer that most frequently affect children and teens
- Geriatric oncologists, who typically work with patients over the age of 65
- Neuro-oncologists, who focus on cancers affecting the brain, spine, and central nervous system
- Thoracic oncologists, who treat lung cancer and other cancers in the chest area
- Urologic oncologists, who focus on carcinomas in the genitals and urinary system, such as prostate, kidney, or bladder cancer
- Gynecological oncologists, who treat cancer in the reproductive organs
- Hematologists, who are oncologists that treat blood-related cancers, such as leukemia or lymphoma