Oncology is the branch of medicine that studies tumors (cancer). The oncologist often coordinates the multidisciplinary care of cancer patients, which may involve physiotherapy, counseling, clinical genetics, to name but a few. An oncologist often has to liaise with pathologists on the exact biological nature of the tumor that is being treated.
Oncology is concerned with:
• The diagnosis of cancer
• Therapy (e.g., surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other modalities)
• Follow-up of cancer patients after successful treatment
• Palliative care of patients with terminal malignancies
• Ethical questions surrounding cancer care
• Screening efforts:
o of populations, or
o of the relatives of patients (in types of cancer that are thought to have a hereditary basis, such as breast cancer).
There are several sub-specialties within oncology. Moreover, oncologists often develop an interest and expertise in the management of particular types of cancer.
Oncologists may be divided on the basis of the type of treatment provided or whether their role is primarily diagnostic.
- Radiology: localize, stage and often perform image-guided biopsy in order to obtain the tissue for preliminary diagnosis.
- Anatomical pathology: render the final diagnosis and prognosis of cancer, in order to guide treatment by oncologists.
- Radiation oncology: treatment primarily with radiation, a process called radiotherapy.
- Surgical oncology: surgeons who specialize in tumor removal.
- Medical oncology: treatment primarily with drugs, that is, pharmacotherapy, which includes chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and targeted therapy.
- Gynecologic oncology: focuses on cancers of the female reproductive system.
- Pediatric oncology: concerned with the treatment of cancer in children