Oncology is a word that comes from Greek. It is a branch of medicine that closely deals with cancer. A person who practices oncology is termed as an oncologist. An oncologist is responsible of various tasks like diagnosing cancer in a person and performing therapies like chemotherapies and radiations. They are also required to follow up on the patient’s progress, post-surgery. Oncologists also take care of patients suffering from cancer and conducts palliative services.
Types of oncologists
There are many different types of oncologists. The three major types of oncologists are medical, surgical and radiation. These three may work together to treat a patient with cancer. It is often the clinical oncologist who treats a patient soon after he is diagnosed with cancer. Utmost care and attention must be given to such patients. Let us now briefly analyze the three primary disciplines called medical oncology, surgical oncology and radiation oncology.
A medical oncologist treats people with cancer using a therapy known as chemotherapy. Under this, drugs are used to kill cancer causing cells. Radiotherapy is also used by doctors. Chemotherapy uses antineoplastic drugs to kills cancer cells that divide rapidly. Both these therapies are used in cases wher the disease is almost incurable. Performing this treatment will help to improve the quality and prolong life. a specialty therapy of a medical oncologist is hormone therapy. this is often performed on patients with breast cancer or those suffering from secondary stages of cancer.
A surgical oncologist is responsible of performing surgery related treatment on cancer patients. They may perform biopsy on the patient or even surgically remove cancer. Biopsy is where a small amount of tissue is removed for examination. Cancer cells are also sometimes surgically removed.
This includes surgically removing the lymph, nodes and tissues surrounding it. Surgical removal is often done where the cancer cell has not spread very far. Surgical method is often performed on patients who are diagnosed during initial stages of cancer. Often, even after surgery, radiation or chemotherapy is performed on the patient to completely destroy the cancer causing cells and to prevent the further growth of cancer cells.
A radiation oncologist is more concerned with radiation therapy. Here, high power x rays are directed against the patient to kill cancer cells. Apart from this, the American Society of Clinical Oncology identifies some other types of oncologists. They often work as a team monitoring the progress of the patient and altering the treatment plan if necessary. They also help the patient deal with the side effects of radiation therapy. To become a radiation therapist, one needs to complete nine years of schooling and also four years of residency studies that will help him/her specialize in radiology. Additionally, they will also have to pass a certification course.
Radiation treatment techniques
The most commonly used radiation techniques include external beam radiation, 3d treatment, IMRT and stereotactic radiosurgery. These are performed on patients based on their disease. There are also other factors like the age of the patient, general health, allergies and other medical factors.
The oncologist has to choose the most effective and best treatment method that will effectively destroy cancer cells while retaining the surrounding normal cells. What is peculiar about cancer treatment is that they are not painful. However, most patients experience some kind of side effects like nausea, hair loss and skin rashes. Most cancer patients will however have to undergo some kind of radiotherapy at some stage of their illness. This is because radiation is considered to be the most effective form of treatment for cancer until now.
These are oncologists who cater to women suffering from uterus and cervical cancer.
These are oncologists who treat children suffering from cancer. There are also some types of cancer that affects children and teenagers like brain tumors, leukemia etc. all these are treated by pediatric oncologists.
What does an oncologist do?
An oncologist meets patients who are diagnosed with various types of cancers like lungs, skin cancer, tongue cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer etc. they observe symptoms of cancer and diagnose the area of cancer and prescribe effective treatment for patients. They are also required to have good communication powers to communicate effectively with patients and their family. They should be kind, considerate and understanding enough while dealing with a patient.
How to become an oncologist?
Becoming an oncologist is a hard and strenuous task. You can become one only if you are really earnest about the profession and if you have the passion for it. Additionally you will also have to undergo rigorous training and studies in order to become an oncologist. First and foremost, you will have to gain a four year bachelor’s degree, with special emphasis on physics, biology and chemistry. After this, you need to get admitted to a medical school. It takes four years to complete this. The first two years are class room education where you focus on theory, anatomy, pathology, and biology etc. lab education is also given.
The last two years must be spent in hospitals and clinics. This will get you a degree in MD (doctor of Medicine). After this, you will have to complete residency and fellowship. Here you receive professional training at hospitals and clinics. You will also be taught the treatment procedures etc. if you intend to sub specialize in oncology; you will have to further specialize and get additional training in it. Medical doctors must also be licensed to practice in the state. For this, you might have to pass an additional examination. Not many states require you to pass one. It is sufficient if you produce legal documents.
Salary range of an oncologist
Experience is very much important when it comes to working in hospitals. Salary of an oncologist ranges between $56, 000 and $2, 20, 000 annually. With more experience, salary also increases. Oncologists with more than 10 years’ experience earn more than $3, 10 000 a year. Salary also depends on many other factors like geography, employer and even your gender.