What is an Oncologist?

Medical doctors that specialize in diagnosis and treatment of cancer are called oncologists.  Since there are more than 200 different types of cancer, doctors who specialize in oncology hone in on the exact type of cancer a patient has and then develop an appropriate method of treatment based on the kind and stage of the disease.

Within the field of oncology there are three primary disciplines – medical oncology, surgical oncology and radiation oncology. Although these doctors specialize in different things, all three specialists often work together to optimize their strengths when it comes to helping treat a patient with cancer.

A medical oncologist specializes in treating cancer with chemotherapy.  Like its namesake, a surgical oncologist specializes in the surgical aspects of the cancer including performing biopsies. Biopsies are the removal of a small amount of cancerous tissue to use for an examination under a microscope. Surgical oncologists also remove the cancer, surrounding tissue and sometimes nearby lymph nodes (tiny, oval-shaped organs that help fight disease).  Lastly, a radiation oncologist specializes in treating the cancer with radiation therapy.  This therapy is done by using high –energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells.

Working with a Mesothelioma Oncologist

Generally one reaches an oncologist through referral from their general practitioner. However, unlike having the ability to choose from numerous general practitioners, it is less likely that a patient has much say in picking out their oncologist.

When first meeting with an oncologist they may ask a number of general questions about symptoms, perform physical examinations and even ask for a full medical history. One may also go through medical procedures such as biopsies, X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans. All of these tests are commonly used to determine if a patient definitely has mesothelioma, or if it’s another asbestos-related disease, where the primary tumor is and the stage of cancer.

Once all the information is gathered, the oncologist will collect all the data and move forward with the finest form of treatment he/she thinks is appropriate. A person diagnosed with mesothelioma will likely meet many doctors throughout the recovery process. An oncologist is there in part to ensure that all doctors are working towards a common goal, to give the patient the best treatment possible.
Once treatment is underway, in order for the oncologist to keep track of everything and evaluate how the treatments are working, they will undergo ongoing tests to determine what is and isn’t effective.

Of course treatments and testing can become a very exhausting and drawn out process. Remember that every cancer is different, and depending on the stage and location of the cancer, treatments will either work well, or poorly. It is essential to allow the oncologist to constantly re-evaluate the general health of the patient in order to make certain that the treatment is doing what it is supposed to do.

The three treatment options most commonly used in combating mesothelioma are surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Whichever option the oncologist chooses is dependent on a variety of factors. It is also common that a patient will have to endure a few of the previously stated options. One may need surgery and then chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Depending again on the type of cancer, location of cancer and the patient’s body weight will determine the type of chemotherapy and the dose the patient will need to receive.

Be Involved, Ask Questions!

It is important for the patient and their family to be comfortable and ask as many questions as they want. The oncologist will clearly explain any concerns the patient and their loved ones might have. Again, going through diagnosis and treatment of asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma can be a long process and at times, very frightening. If anyone feels that getting more information about the process will be of help to the patient or family, and or make them feel more at ease, the oncologist will be there willing to help in any way possible.


Cancer Help

Types of Oncologists