What is Oncology?
Oncology is a medical terminology in which we learn the identification and treatment of Cancer. If we have to do a breakdown, then the word “onco” would mean mass or bulk which mainly refers to the tumor; and “logy” would be synonymous to study. It basically derives its etymology from the Greek word ὄγκος (ónkos)
What is Oncologist?
The oncologist would be someone who practices the branch of oncology simply put. To be accurate, oncologists are doctors that treat cancer and also provide suitable medical assistance to a person that is afflicted by it. They also provide and carry out stringent supervision, and might also assist in treatments given by other specialists.
Types of Oncologist
Oncology’s domain basically consists of three vital sections, and they are,
The types are accordingly listed out with respect to these sections,
Medical Oncologists are the most common variants of Oncologists that one would witness. They are also referred to as the cancer specialists which is definitely a term most people use. Usually, an oncologist would only look after the patient with regards to his/her general care. It would also involve keeping in touch with multiple other specialists for co-ordinated treatments.
But what a medical oncologist specializes in are therapies of tumors; this would involve getting into chemotherapy. Chemotherapy would involve the surgical removal of cancer cells in certain areas of the human body. The job description also involves that this person is a professional in the usage of hormones in medical treatments. It stems from the continuous advance of cancer where hormones are directly involved. It is also referred to as endocrine therapy.
A medical oncologist would also have some experience of immunotherapy. This involves the treatment of cancer by constantly amplifying or subduing the immune system. It is therefore referred to as the activation immunotherapy or suppression immunotherapy respectively.
As the name firmly suggests, surgical oncologist refers to the treatment of cancer by focusing on surgically removing the cancerous tumors. He/she would also require to remove any additional tissues that have been affected in the course of the surgery, especially the ones affected by cancer. This process of effectively carrying out the processes mentioned over here is referred to as the debulking surgery.
Surgical Oncologists also carry out the process of palliative surgery. This requires a surgical intervention which is focused on making the patient’s disease indicators less severe than normal. This would make the patient’s life much better having almost no impact with on the survival of the patient.
Surgical Oncologists might also be called in to treat cancer using biopsy. A biopsy refers to a specific medical test that is performed to extract some of the sample cells or tissue for a more meticulous examination thus determining if the symptoms are present or not.
Unlike many other oncologists, surgical ones do not get trained as an intern and can get started straight away.
Radiation Oncologists are medical professionals who directly use ionizing radiations or radionuclides as a form of cancer treatment. The treatments given by them are thorough and at times are considered to be completely curative, though it is debatable whether it is 100% but it is definitely curative.
Radiation Oncologists also eliminate some of the benign tumors and they work closely with specialists from other departments as well. Some of these include,
- Surgical Oncologists
- Interventional Radiologists
- Internal Medicine sub-specialists
- Medical Oncologists
- Medical Physicists
And so many more since they need to ensure that the treatments should be safe and accurate as per the specifications. It is very common for specialists to take in a second opinion with the radiation oncologists so that the patient’s responses can be recorded, tested and take in suggestions if there are any.
Radiation Oncologists also need to take in some serious level of training that is specific to oncology since they would be tested on many fronts, including the chemical and surgical ones.
Some of the other different variants in Oncologists are also given below
Gynecologic Oncologist orGynecologist is a medical professional who specializes in the detection and treatment of women with organ-based cancer. By organ-based cancer, we particularly focus on female reproductive organs like ovaries, uterus, vagina, etc. The diseases that come under the purview of a Gynaecologist are,
- Ovarian Cancer
- Uterine Cancer
- Vaginal Cancer
- Cervical Cancer
- Vulvar Cancer
A Gynaecologist also needs to have a practical understanding of radical pelvic surgery, gastrointestinal surgery, and urologic surgery. They also need to get trained in the administration of intravenous, intraperitoneal and oral chemotherapy, and the arrangement of brachytherapy devices for radiotherapy.
For instance, if a patient is diagnosed with ovarian cancer then a gynecologist would carry out a staging laparotomy to remove the tumor surgically. Post which, the doctor would then review the patient’s diagnosis and recommend any additional treatment if needed.
A pediatric oncologist focuses on treating cancer found in children. This variant of cancer is mostly found in children and teenagers. The type is also visible in adults as well, therefore they need to consult a pediatric oncologist for this. Only through advanced training and extensive practice, the unique nature of children suffering from cancer can be understood and eventually diagnosed.
Some of the treatments that Paediatric Oncologists identify in teens and children are as follows,
- Illnesses ranging from Leukemia, Lymphoma, brain tumor, bone tumor, and solid tumors as well.
- Blood cell diseases include disorders of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
- Bleeding disorders as well.
Pediatric Oncologists also need to understand that a child’s body behaves differently than that of adults. So, they should be able to inspect and accordingly treat them in a way that would make them feel less anxious.
A physician who is a hematologist/oncologist is proficient in effectively diagnosing cancer and blood disorders. These include iron deficiency anemia, leukemia, sickle cell diseases, lymphoma, myeloma, etc.
Hematologist / Oncologist would not usually treat up practical cancers such as prostate cancer, but they are more inclined towards treating up blood cancers. Some of these include Hodgkins and non-Hodgkins lymphomas, leukemias and multiple myelomas. Both Hematology and Oncology are joined together in the diagnosis which results in the effective management of conditions that might cause malignancies.
Hematologist-Oncologists also work hand in hand with multiple other departments so that there is no communication gap between them. Some of these departments are,
- Surgical Department
If the next time your pediatrician suggests that your child needs expert medical care from a hematologist-oncologist; then you can rest assured that he/she is in capable hands.
Role of an Oncologist
An Oncologist or an oncology specialist’s main role is to take extensive care of the patient throughout his/her course of the diagnosis. The specialist is also responsible for monitoring the patient’s medical histories and physical examinations as well. An Oncologist would also perform a veritable number of procedures to ascertain the tissue conditions and then identify the source of cancer.
Some of the vital responsibilities of an Oncologist are listed out below,
- Explain the patient about the various diagnostic stages of cancer, and therefore making him/her comfortable.
- Explain to them about the multiple treatment options that are available and what would be the favourite choice to go forward with.
- You should make your patient feel at ease; this would involve caring for your patient with compassion.
- Assisting the patient in supervising and explaining the possible symptoms and also briefing them about the possible side-effects of the disease and its treatment.
There are multiple parties in the Oncology team that are involved whilst taking care of the patient. Every one of them has a role assigned to them based on which certain procedures need to be followed diligently. Multiple doctors also work in sync with each other so that reports, theories, and possible treatment procedures can be put forth and administered.
If we need to take an example of this, then there is something called the multi-disciplinary team. There would be times when a patient needs help with regards to a combined surgery like chemotherapy and radiation therapy needs to be done collectively. At this stage, a multidisciplinary team is put forth for the task.
Some of the important cancer care task force that is involved and who assist the medical care professionals are,
Since the main field of study for a pathologist is to understand the main cause and effects of diseases, an effective diagnosis is what this person carries out. A pathologist would scrutinize the medical test results and laboratory reports. It would also involve checking any cells, tissues, and organs that require any further diagnostics.
2. Diagnostic Radiologist
Radiologists would be the ones that completely specialize in interpretation and thereby obtaining the medical images of the patients. These images would include X-Rays, radiographs, fluoroscopy, CT scans, etc. They also use radioactive substances for imaging purposes, sound waves that include MRI scans and ultrasound, etc.
3. Oncology Nurse
These are specialized nurses who have the responsibility for taking effective care of cancer patients. They require advanced study and certifications, which would also experience working in the oncology department. This is something that is a little more advanced than the conventional nursing programs.
4. Oncology Social Worker
These are a set of health care professionals that provide cognitive help to the patients, and his/her near and dear ones who face the brunt of this. They provide assistance which is clinical, corroborative, documentation, program support, etc.
There could be different teams involved in many cases if needed. If the diagnosis becomes complex, then the Oncologist would forward his findings to the Tumor Board who review this and decide on the best course forward for the patient.