What Is Oncology?

    Oncology (ahn-KOL-eh-jee) is the medical specialty focused on the study, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.

    What Is an Oncologist?

    An oncologist (ahn-KOL-eh-jist) is a doctor who diagnoses and treats different types of cancer.

    Why Would Someone Need One?

    Oncologists diagnose and treat cancer. They:

    • find out what stage a person's cancer is in (how much cancer is in the body and where it is)
    • prescribe cancer treatment, such as medicines, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, stem cell transplants, and surgery
    • give ongoing care for patients during and after cancer treatment

    They do such medical tests and procedures as:

    • biopsies
    • bone marrow aspiration and biopsy
    • bone scan (used to find cancer or see how well treatment is working)
    • blood cell count tests
    • tumor marker tests (to look for substances made by cells in response to cancer)

    What Is Their Training?

    An oncologist's training typically includes:

    • 4 years of pre-medical education at a college or university
    • 4 years of medical school — a medical degree (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) degree
    • 3 years of residency (professional training in a hospital or clinic) in internal medicine
    • 2 years of fellowship in medical oncology. A “fellow” is a doctor who had more specialty training after completing medical school and a residency.

    They can also do special training in a subspecialty area; for example, pediatric oncology and hematology-oncology (treatment of cancers and blood disorders).

    Good to Know

    Surgical oncologists first become general surgeons in a 5-year residency and then complete a fellowship in oncology and the removal of tumors.

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2023 KidsHealth® All rights reserved. Images provided by iStock, Getty Images, Corbis, Veer, Science Photo Library, Science Source Images, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com