Oncology refers to a branch of medical science that deals with tumors and cancers. “Onco” means mass or tumor, and “-logy” means study. An oncologist is a doctor who manages a person’s care and treatment once he or she is diagnosed with cancer.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2016, there will be “1,685,210 new cancer cases diagnosed and 595,690 cancer deaths in the U.S.” More Americans now have a history of cancer thanks to the continual growth of our aging population and longer survival rates. Here are three more sobering cancer facts:
1) Over the past 30 years, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined. “Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon,” reports the Skin Cancer Foundation. If detected and treated early, skin cancer is the easiest to cure.
2) Breast cancer is the second most common newly diagnosed cancer and second leading cause of cancer death among women in the U.S., exceeded only by lung cancer. There are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S., including women still being treated and those who have completed treatment, reports the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
3) Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common newly diagnosed cancer and the third most common cause of cancer death among U.S. men and women. Like skin cancer, CRC is one of the most preventable common cancers.
Types of Oncologists
The field of oncology has several areas of specialization:
• A medical oncologist treats cancer using chemotherapy or other medications.
• A hematologist-oncologist diagnoses and treats blood cancers, such as lymphoma, leukemia and myeloma.
• A surgical oncologist performs biopsies and removes the tumor and nearby tissue during an operation.
• A radiation oncologist treats cancer using radiation therapy.
• A gynecologic oncologist treats gynecologic cancers, such as ovarian, uterine and cervical cancers.
• A pediatric oncologist treats cancer in children.
The Role of the Oncologist
Oncologists have several specific roles on a cancer patient’s team. After a diagnosis is confirmed, one of the most important functions of the oncologist is helping newly diagnosed patients understand their disease and the staging. Staging refers to “where a cancer is located, if or where it has spread and whether it is affecting the other parts of the body.” This information helps to determine treatment and prognosis: the chance of recovery and the chance of recurrence.
Planning cancer therapy is another key function of an oncologist. They explore and explain all treatment options to help patients make informed decisions about their healthcare. Therapy might involve surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and other modalities. A patient’s oncology team often includes doctors from other areas of medicine that consult with the oncologist. For example, a dermatologist would play a large role in the case of a skin cancer diagnosis.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2016, there will be “1,685,210 new cancer cases diagnosed and 595,690 cancer deaths in the U.S.”
An oncologist continues to oversee a patient’s care through treatment, helping the patient manage cancer-related pain and treatment side effects. Once the initial therapy is completed, the oncologist continues to follow the patient to detect a return of the cancer or confirm a cancer-free remission.
Are you or a loved one faced with the challenge of a cancer diagnosis? Revere Health offers specialists in both Medical Oncology and Hematology-Oncology that provide patient-centered cancer treatment using the latest technologies. We work with you to determine the best treatment options for your unique condition and continue to adjust and monitor your dosage or care throughout your treatment.