Oncology: what does this medical specialty cover?

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382,000. This is the number of new cases of cancer identified in France in 2018. Prostate cancer is the most common in men, with nearly 50,000 cases in 2015. In women, it is cancer breast, which is the most common, with 58,000 new cases recorded in 2018. To take care of these patients, the intervention of an oncologist is necessary. Oncology is the medical specialty characterized by the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of patients with cancer.

An oncologist is therefore the doctor specializing in cancer. These pathologies are multiple and can affect different organs of the body. They develop from abnormal cells that spread quickly and in large quantities in the body. Mutations in certain genes can also cause them.

According to the Arc Foundation, “cancer is a generic term that groups together different types of malignant tumors“such as carcinomas, adenocarcinomas, sarcomas and lymphomas. Oncologists may be specialized in certain types of cancer, in particular in urology, pediatrics, gynecology or neurology.

What is the role of an oncologist?

The role of an oncologist is to ensure the follow-up of a patient during and after the treatment of his cancer. He notably deals with the drug management of cancers by prescribing chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, immunotherapy or even targeted therapies. An oncologist also manages all the disorders related to the adverse effects of treatments such as:

  • the pain
  • tiredness
  • nutritional, respiratory and digestive problems
  • genitourinary and motor disorders
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Graduate studies take a long time to become an oncologist or oncologist. The student first begins training in medicine before specializing for five years in oncology. It is therefore necessary to have eleven years of training before graduating in oncology. There are several kinds of oncologist:

  • the chiomiotherapist or medical oncologist: she is a doctor specializing in cancer treatment using drugs. He is in charge of prescribing the various treatments such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy or hormone therapy.
  • the radiotherapist oncologist: this specialist is responsible for cancer treatment by radiotherapy. He is in contact with a specialized medical team with which he calculates the dose of radiation needed to treat the patient. The radiotherapist oncologist also schedules the radiotherapy sessions.

It is also possible to become a surgeon specializing in oncology. This healthcare professional performs surgeries to diagnose cancer or remove a tumor that has affected tissues or organs.

What are the missions of an oncologist?

After the appearance of a suspicious lump, a general practitioner, a gynecologist or a dermatologist can advise his patient to consult an oncologist.

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The oncologist coordinates appropriate supportive care and the administration of treatment throughout the duration of the illness. In general, he does not perform surgical operations, but guides the patient to the appropriate specialists. This healthcare professional also acts as the link between the attending physician and the cancer patient. To diagnose cancer, the patient may be prescribed Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or a CT scan.

Its missions are varied:

  • inform the patient daily
  • auscultate the patient
  • establish or confirm a diagnosis
  • carry out analyzes
  • prescribe drug treatments and therapeutic strategies
  • check the progress of the disease
  • monitor the effectiveness of treatments and possible side effects
  • refer him to a surgeon to remove or diagnose a tumor

How often should you go to the oncologist?

The oncologist follows the patient throughout the duration of his cancer, but also when he is in remission or cured. When a person is affected by cancer, regular consultations with the oncologist are necessary to ensure that the treatments are carried out properly. He also pays attention to the side effects of therapeutic strategies.

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Sources: the National Cancer Institute, the League against cancer and the Arc Foundation for cancer research.

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