If you or someone near to you has experienced a cancer diagnosis, you’re already familiar with the term oncology. If not, here’s a brief overview of what oncology means, and how it’s practiced.
Oncology is the study of cancer, and anyone who practices this specific field of medicine is an oncologist. An oncologist works with a patient through all the steps of cancer: diagnosis, therapy, follow-up, and if needed, palliative or hospice care. If your regular physician suspects you might have cancer, they will refer you to an oncologist.
There are specific subsets of oncology, such as surgical oncology, which deals with tumor removal, as well as pediatric, radiation, and gynecologic, to name a few. There are also oncologists who only deal with specific diseases, such as pancreatic or breast cancer. In the field of veterinary medicine there is also a specific branch of oncology, for treating animals with cancer.
In addition to traditional methods of oncology, there is also the growing field of integrative oncology, which complements western medicine with alternative therapies, such as botanical herbs, acupuncture, or dietary changes.
To become an oncologist, a person must become a Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, specializing in oncology. Oncologists are among the best compensated of all medical specialists, earning an average of $215,000 a year in salary.