Health Care Providers: Oncologists
What Is Oncology?
Oncology (ahn-KOL-eh-jee) is the medical specialty focused on the study, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.
What Is an Oncologist?
An oncologist (ahn-KOL-eh-jist) is a doctor who diagnoses and treats different types of cancer.
Why Would Someone Need One?
Oncologists diagnose and treat cancer. They:
- find out what stage a person's cancer is in (how much cancer is in the body and where it is)
- prescribe cancer treatment, such as medicines, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, stem cell transplants, and surgery
- give ongoing care for patients during and after cancer treatment
They do such medical tests and procedures as:
- bone marrow aspiration and biopsy
- bone scan (used to find cancer or see how well treatment is working)
- blood cell count tests
- tumor marker tests (to look for substances made by cells in response to cancer)
What Is Their Training?
An oncologist's training typically includes:
- 4 years of pre-medical education at a college or university
- 4 years of medical school — a medical degree (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) degree
- 3 years of residency (professional training in a hospital or clinic) in internal medicine
- 2 years of fellowship in medical oncology. A “fellow” is a doctor who had more specialty training after completing medical school and a residency.
They can also do special training in a subspecialty area; for example, pediatric oncology and hematology-oncology (treatment of cancers and blood disorders).
Good to Know
Surgical oncologists first become general surgeons in a 5-year residency and then complete a fellowship in oncology and the removal of tumors.