Understanding Oncologists

Oncology is the medical and scientific field that relates to cancer. There are several types of oncologists​, and you will likely work with all of them during your cancer journey. Here is a guide to understanding who they are and what they do:

Types of oncologists

  • Radiation oncologists use high-energy X-rays or particles called radiation to kill cancerous cells.
  • Surgical oncologists remove tumors and surrounding cancerous tissues. They also perform biopsies to see if cells are cancerous.
  • Medical oncologists use procedures like chemotherapy to stop the growth and division of cancer cells. They also use targeted therapy drugs or oral chemotherapy to stop cancer from growing.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology also states that there are three other types of oncologists:

  • Hematologist oncologists diagnose and treat blood cancers like myeloma, lymphoma and leukemia.
  • Gynecologic oncologists specialize in working with uterine, cervical and other gynecological cancers that are found in women.
  • Pediatric oncologists work with children who are cancer patients. 

From the moment of diagnosis to after-treatment care, you will very likely work with at​ least two different kinds of oncologists. They will help to perform a biopsy on a lump in the breast, work with you to decide the best way to treat it, and then surgically remove the cancerous cells or use drugs or therapies to stop the cancer growth. 

Choosing an oncologist
Your doctor will help you find the oncologist that is right for you. Look for one who specializes in your type of cancer or cancer treatment. It is very helpful to have one that is close to home to make the many trips to the doctor go quicker and be easier on you from a travel standpoint. Talk with friends or acquaintances that have been through cancer treatment about who they used as an oncologist. They may recommend someone that was super helpful and great at explaining what is going on. Consider all these factors when making your final decision.

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