What is the difference between the specialties of oncology?
Once diagnosed with cancer, many patients and their caregivers turn to the Internet to decipher the dreaded medical lexicon they must start navigating. In addition to trying to learn about several chemotherapy drugs for tongue twisting and very scientific treatment protocols, a consultation with cancer specialists called oncologists can also play an important role in the journey. But first, it’s important to understand what they’re doing.
The supposed father of medicine, the Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 BC), is credited with coining the word cancer to describe tumors, while another Greek physician, Galen (130-200 AD), is believed to have coined the word cancer. . C.), define inclusion of the term oncos (Greek word for bloating), according to the American Cancer Society. The invention of the microscope, followed by the widespread availability of anesthesia, led to rapid advances in the field of oncology in the mid-1990s. y century. Since the 1990s, many cancer specialties have developed along with innovative treatments, resulting in a lower death rate, according to the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program.
The branch of medicine dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment, and research of cancer is known as oncology, while a doctor who works in this field is called an oncologist. Some oncologists focus only on certain types or treatments of cancer. Depending on the type, stage, and location of the cancer, several oncologists may be involved in a patient’s care. The field of oncology includes three major specialties (medical, surgical and radiological) and several subspecialties.
An oncologist is a licensed physician (usually in internal medicine) trained in diagnosing, staging, and treating cancer. This specialist also leads the development of a cancer patient’s treatment plan, which may include surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, or hormone therapy, while also coordinating with oncologists and other doctors who may have a role in the patient’s care. A medical oncologist is also the doctor that a cancer patient will continue to visit after treatment, for long-term examinations.
A surgical oncologist is a surgeon who specializes in performing biopsies and removing cancerous tumors and surrounding tissue, as well as other operations related to cancer.
A radiation oncologist specializes in treating cancer with radiation therapy to shrink or destroy cancer cells or to relieve symptoms related to cancer.
Many types of cancer are treated by a subspecialty of oncology. Gynecological oncologists, for example, are trained to treat cancers of the female reproductive system, such as those affecting the uterus, cervix, or ovaries, while hematologic oncologists specialize in diagnosing and treating blood cancers (leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma). A neuro-oncologist treats cancers of the brain, spine and peripheral nerves.
When you’re looking for an oncologist, it’s a good idea to ask potential doctors if they’re board-certified in an oncology specialty, says Maury Markman, MD, chief of medicine and science at Cancer Centers of America. ® (CTCA). Board certification means that in addition to completing a residency program, the physician has also completed a fellowship in oncology, which provides training in cancer diagnosis and treatment, and has successfully passed a rigorous testing and evaluation process. expertise.
“It’s an ambition for an oncologist to be board certified, which is where that certification is,” says Dr. Markman, who is board certified in three specialties: internal medicine, medical oncology, and hematology. He notes that board certification is not offered for all types of cancer, but in these cases, patients can ask doctors about their expertise and training in their specialty.
“Ask about the hospital’s experience with the type of cancer you have,” he says, suggesting that patients or caregivers do their homework and find a known cancer center or hospital. Ask if the nurses are certified by the Society of Oncology Nurses. One of the advantages of the cancer program is that cancer is what the doctors in that program focus on and train in, and the more patients you see, the more experience you have, especially with rare cancers.”