What does an Oncology Specialist do?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2019
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An oncology specialist is a doctor that primarily handles cases and research that involve cancer. Many years of training are required to become an oncology specialist; beyond medical school, many oncologists spend years studying a particular branch of the field, such as gynecological oncology or surgical oncology. There are many things that an oncology specialist can do, depending on his or her training and abilities.

Research, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer are three main areas that an oncology specialist can handle. In research, an oncologist may be involved in the creation and advancement of treatment techniques for cancer. A researcher may also devote time to discovering the causes of cancer to increase medical knowledge about prevention. Many oncology specialists who are researchers by trade also study genetics, in order to better understand the connection between DNA and hereditary cancer.

A patient may first see an oncology specialist if routine tests bring up abnormal results that may suggest cancer. An oncologist is often called in to review the results, talk to the patient, and recommend further tests. If cancer is discovered and diagnosed, the patient may find themselves under the care of not only one, but several oncology specialists, depending on the type of treatment required.


If a tumor is found to be operable, a surgical oncologist may be called to remove it. These doctors are skilled surgeons adept at visualizing tumors and removing them completely or as much as possible, to lower the chance of recurrence. Although many different types of surgeons can remove tumors, a surgical oncologist has most likely received that designation after graduating from a post-graduate program that specialized extensively in cancer-related surgery.

Clinical oncologists and radiotherapists often work with cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, drug therapy, and radiation treatments for cancer. These doctors often work together with a primary doctor to create a cohesive plan to fight cancer in a patient. In some cases, they may also work as a team with a surgical oncologist as well, if some tumors can be removed or may be subject to surgery after a course of drug therapy or radiation.

Oncology specialists may further divide into the treatment of specific types of cancer. A gynecological oncologist works with cancers that occur in the female reproductive system, such as cervical cancer. A pediatric oncologist deals mostly with cancer cases that occur in children. Regardless of specialty, oncologists are noble soldiers in the battle to understand, discover, and destroy cancer. Thanks to tremendous interest in this medical field, new treatments and improvements become available regularly, bringing more hope to cancer patients throughout the world.


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