Oncology is a branch of medicine that deals with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.
The three components which have improved survival in cancer are:
Prevention – by reduction of risk factors like tobacco and alcohol consumption
Early diagnosis – screening of common cancers and comprehensive diagnosis and staging
Treatment – multimodality management by discussion in tumor board and treatment in a comprehensive cancer centre
Cancers are often managed through discussion on multi-disciplinary cancer conferences where medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists and organ specific oncologists meet to find the best possible management for an individual patient considering the physical, social, psychological, emotional and financial status of the patient. It is very important for oncologists to keep updated with respect to the latest advancements in oncology, as changes in management of cancer are quite common. All eligible patients in whom cancer progresses and for whom no standard of care treatment options are available should be enrolled in a clinical trial.
The three main divisions of oncology are :
Medical oncology: focuses on treatment of cancer with chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy and hormonal therapy.
Surgical oncology: focuses on treatment of cancer with surgery.
Radiation oncology: focuses on treatment of cancer with radiation.
Sub-specialties in Oncology:
Neuro-oncology: focuses on cancers of brain.
Ocular oncology: focuses on cancers of eye.
Head & Neck oncology: focuses on cancers of oral cavity, nasal cavity, oropharynx, hypopharyx and larynx.
Thoracic oncology: focuses on cancers of lung, mediastinum, oesophagus and pleura.
Types of Oncologists
Oncology is the study of cancer. An oncologist is a doctor who treats cancer. Usually, an oncologist manages a person’s care and treatment once he or she is diagnosed with cancer.
The field of oncology has three major areas: medical, surgical, and radiation.
A medical oncologist treats cancer using chemotherapy or other medications, such as targeted therapy.
A surgical oncologist removes the tumor and nearby tissue during an operation. He or she also performs certain types of biopsies.
A radiation oncologist treats cancer using radiation therapy.
Other types of oncologists include the following:
A gynecologic oncologist treats gynecologic cancers, such as uterine cancer and cervical cancer.
A pediatric oncologist treats cancer in children. Some types of cancer occur most often in children and teenagers, such as certain brain tumors, leukemia, osteosarcoma, and Ewing’s sarcoma. But they sometimes occur in adults. In these cases, an adult may decide to work with a pediatric oncologist.
A hematologist-oncologist diagnoses and treats blood cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma.
The role of the oncologist
An oncologist oversees a patient’s care from the cancer diagnosis throughout the course of the disease. The oncologist’s role includes the following:
Explaining the cancer diagnosis and stage to the patient
Discussing all relevant treatment options and the oncologist’s recommendations
Delivering high-quality, compassionate care
Helping the patient manage cancer-related pain and other symptoms or treatment side effects
A person with cancer is often treated by a team of oncologists who specialize in different areas of oncology. This approach is helpful because cancer treatment frequently involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Other medical professionals may also be involved in a patient’s care:
A pathologist specializes in reading laboratory tests and checking cells, tissues, and organs to diagnose disease
A diagnostic radiologist specializes in performing and reading imaging tests, such as x-rays or ultrasound tests, to diagnose disease
An oncology nurse
An oncology social worker