An oncologist is a doctor who is highly trained to research, diagnose and treat a person with cancer or suspected cancer. These specialists can treat many different types of cancer in various parts of the patient's body. Oncologists are also board certified to practice hematology, which means they can treat blood disorders such as sickle cell disease. If a primary care doctor finds evidence of cancer, they will refer the person to an oncologist for further evaluation.
During the first visit, the oncologist may perform a physical exam and order additional blood tests, imaging tests, or biopsies. A medical oncologist's job is to care for cancer patients through the use of items such as chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy. A radiation oncologist specializes in giving external and internal radiation therapy to people with cancer. Surgical oncologists may recommend different treatment options based on the information they collect from biopsies, imaging tests, and other laboratory tests.
Oncologists build treatment plans based on pathology reports. It will depend on the type of cancer you have, how much the cancer has developed, and how quickly it is likely to spread. The parts of the body that are involved will also be considered. Oncologists treat early-stage cancer and noninvasive tumors with surgery or radiation therapy.
Advanced cancers that have already spread to different areas of the body may require chemotherapy and other systemic treatments. It's not uncommon for an oncologist to give a patient a basic prediction of how long it will take to recover. After treatment is finished, patients attend regular follow-up appointments with their medical oncologist. You can also see other oncologists depending on the type of cancer you have and the type of treatment plan you want. After graduating from medical school, prospective oncologists must complete a residency program, usually in internal medicine or general surgery, followed by a fellowship in their chosen oncology subfield. Read on to learn more about oncologists, including different types of oncology, some methods specialists use to treat cancer, and more.