Oncologists are doctors who provide medical treatment to:
- individuals at high risk to develop cancer, based on family history or genetic test results
- individuals currently fighting cancer
- cancer survivors
Oncologists are concerned with many aspects of cancer care and work within a multidisciplinary medical team in order to provide individuals with the best possible cancer treatment. Your oncologist may:
- Screen individuals at risk for cancer
- Diagnose individuals with cancer
- Explain the cancer diagnosis and stage (a description of where the cancer is located, if or where it has spread, and whether it is affecting other parts of the body)
- Discuss all treatment options and provide a recommendation for the best course of treatment
- Provide therapy to treat cancer (e.g. surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy)
- Provide follow-up care after successful cancer treatment
- Provide palliative care to those with terminal malignancies
- Help maintain quality-of-life by managing cancer-related pain and other symptoms or treatment side effects
Oncologists often specialize- meaning they develop an interest and an expertise in the management of particular types of cancer. Specialized oncologists work together to provide individuals with a combination of therapies (surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy) designed to best treat their cancer. Specialties include:
Radiation oncologists use ionizing radiation to treat cancer. Raditian can be used alone, or in combination with surgery and/or chemotherapy, to treat individuals diagnosed with cancer. It may also be used palliatively to relive symptoms in individuals with terminal malignancies.
Surgical oncologists remove tumors and the surrounding tissue during a surgical operation. They can also performs biopsies (the removal of a small amount of tissue for examination under a microscope) to look for cancer cells.
Medical oncologists treat cancer with chemotherapy (the use of drugs to kill cancer cells, usually by stopping the cancer cells’ ability to grow and divide) or other medications, such as targeted therapy and oral (in pill form) chemotherapy.
Gynecologic oncologists focus on the care and treatment of women cancer of the reproductive tract, such as uterine cancer and cervical cancer.
Pediatric oncologists specialize in the treatment of children with cancer. This specialty includes all three primary oncology disciplines listed above (radiation, surgical, and medical oncology). Some types of cancer occur most often in children and teenagers, such as certain brain tumors, leukemia, osteosarcoma, and Ewing’s sarcoma; however, they occasionally occur in adults. In these instances, an adult may decide to be treated by a pediatric oncologist.
Your onoclogy team may also include a pathologist (a doctor who specializes in interpreting laboratory tests and evaluating cells, tissues, and organs to diagnose disease)and a diagnostic radiologist (a doctor who specializes in performing and interpreting imaging tests, such as x-rays or ultrasound tests, to diagnose disease).
Your oncologist should discuss cancer-related infertility and help you understand your risks. Here are 5 questions to get the conversation started:
1. How is my cancer affecting my health right now?
2. How quickly do I need to start treatment?
3. Will my cancer or its treatment affect my future fertility?
4. What fertility options are out there?
5. Can I have a child after my cancer?
If you have a specific fertility-related question or would like a referal for a fertility preservation consultation, call the Oncofertility Consortium® FERTline at 312-503-FERT or 866-708-FERT to speak with a patient navigator and find a reproductive specialist near you.