With around 50 different national organizations dedicated to serving patients suffering from different kinds of cancer, it is thus understandable that cancer affects each person in society.

The field of oncology comprises of medical experts dedicated to learning more about cancer and finding out ways to treat it in the best way to raise the survival rates as well as improving quality of life before and after treatment.

A lot of doctors currently working in Oncology often share inspirational stories of family members who were personally affected by cancer. If medical have ever wondered what oncologists do or considered entering this field, they should read this to learn more about the field and where this career path might take them.

Oncology – what is it?

Oncology is the field of medicine that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, as determined by faculty members from top-notch Caribbean medical schools. There are different kinds of cancer and several different ways to treat it. These different areas of oncology are often given unique names to identify different branches of the field.

What is radiation oncology?

Radiation oncology is the field of medicine that uses radiation therapy for cancer treatment. It is the only specialty in oncology recognized officially by the Accreditation Council for pre-medical courses for students (ACGME). All other oncology focus areas are listed as subspecialties in a broader specialty area.

Medical Oncology

This is the field that uses chemotherapy and other methods targeting the human body’s immune system in order to defeat cancer.

Surgical Oncology

This field uses surgery to find and remove cancer from the body in the hopes of stopping it from spreading in the body.

Gynecologic oncology

This field of medicine treats female reproductive cancers such as ovarian or cervical cancer.

Hematological oncology

Hematological oncology is that field of medicine targeting blood cancers such as leukemia or lymphoma.

Pediatric oncology

This field of medicine targets cancers in children, particularly cancers that are quite prone to appearing in children compared to adults. Among them is Ewing’s sarcoma.

Dermatological oncology

Dermatological oncology targets skin cancer as well as cancers of the mucous membranes.

Musculoskeletal oncology

Musculoskeletal oncology is that field of medicine targeting bone cancers and other cancers as well as non-cancerous tumors within the musculoskeletal system.

What do oncologists do?

Once a patient is referred to an oncologist if they have cancer or suspect they have it. The treatment plan becomes increasingly complicated. Oncologists are often colloquially referred to as ringleaders of the medical team experienced in confirming a cancer diagnosis and then creating a treatment plan that considers the patient’s health and quality of life.

Oncologists might need to order many different tests, ranging from blood tests to diagnostic imaging. Depending on the type of cancer suspected cancer, the oncologist might need to use specialized tests, like those used in identification of brain tumor or gynecologic cancers.

Once a cancer diagnosis is confirmed, the oncologist will hence have the need to evaluate the tests to determine the best course of treatment that can aggressively fight cancer whereas still maintaining a very good quality of life for the patient.

If the cancer is isolated, then surgery can bring a high rate of success of permanent remission. Whereas cancers in the more advanced stages may require chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

Throughout this process, the oncologist will hence have a need to share updates, options, recommendations and expected risks with the patient and their respective family members/close relatives/loved ones. To handle these delicate conversations, a bedside manner of exceptional manner is needed to share related information whilst providing the patient comfort and understanding through a worrisome situation.

As the treatment progresses, oncologists must also keep track of a patient’s progress exactly so that the treatment plans can be adjusted as soon as the cancer does not respond well to the treatment or if a previously cured cancer emerges again.

Specializations of oncology

The only officially recognized oncology specialty, Radiation Oncology; has one subspecialty in hospice and palliative medicine focusing on the end of life care and relief of symptoms for serious illnesses. Additionally, there are several other subspecialties available via other medical specialties. The ACGME officially recognizes the following subspecialties:

• Dermatology: Micrographic Surgery & Dermatologic Oncology.

• Internal Medicine: Hematology and medical oncology.

• Obstetrics & gynecology: Gynecologic oncology.

• Orthopedic Surgery: Musculoskeletal oncology.

• Pediatrics: Pediatric hematology oncology.

• Surgery: Complex general surgical oncology.

• Orthopaedic Surgery: Musculoskeletal Oncology

• Pediatrics: Pediatric Hematology Oncology

• Surgery: Complex General Surgical Oncology