What is Oncology?

The word oncology literally means a branch of science that deals with tumors and cancer. The word “onco” means bulk, mass or tumor while “-logy” means study.

Oncology is a subspecialty of medicine devoted to the investigation, diagnosis, and treatment of people with cancer or suspected cancer. It includes:

  • Preventive medicine
  • Medical oncology (chemotherapy, immunotherapy, hormone therapy and drugs to treat cancer)
  • Radiation Oncology (Radiation Therapy to Treat Cancer)
  • Surgical oncology (surgery to treat cancer), and
  • Sedative medicine.

What is cancer?

Every cell in the body has a tightly regulated system that controls their growth, maturation, reproduction and eventual death. Cancer begins when cells in a part of the body grow out of control. There are many types of cancer, but they all start with abnormal cells out of control.

Who is a cancer specialist?

An oncologist is a doctor with special training in diagnosing and treating cancer. Some oncologists specialize in treating a particular type of cancer.

Part of a multidisciplinary team, the oncologist supports the patient through collaboration and coordination with other specialists.

Oncologists are involved not only in clinical care, but also contribute to cancer research (including therapeutics, biology, epidemiology, and clinical outcomes research), health education, clinical education, and ethics.

What are the different types of oncologists?

Medical Oncologist
A medical oncologist treats cancer using chemotherapy or other drugs, such as hormone therapy and immunotherapy.

Surgical Oncologist
A surgical oncologist removes tumors or cancerous tissue during an operation. They may also do a biopsy (see below).

Radiation Oncologist
A  oncologist specializes in treating cancer using radiation therapy (radiotherapy).

Role of an oncologist

Medical professionals who practice oncology are called oncologists or oncologists. These oncologists have several specific roles. They help in diagnosing cancer, staging the cancer and grading the aggressive nature of the cancer.

Oncology Diagnostic Tools



The most important diagnostic tool remains the patient’s clinical history. Common symptoms that point to cancer include fatigue, weight loss, unexplained anemia, fever of unknown origin, etc.
Oncology relies on diagnostic tools such as biopsy, or removing bits of tumor tissue and examining them under a microscope. Other diagnostic tools for the gastrointestinal tract include endoscopy, X-ray, CT scanning, MRI scanning, ultrasound and other radiological techniques, scintigraphy, single photon emission computed tomography, positron emission tomography and nuclear medicine techniques, etc.

Common procedures include blood tests for biological or tumor markers. An increase in these markers in the blood can be an indication of cancer.

Cancer therapy

Based on the grade and stage of the cancer, oncologists help them plan the appropriate therapy for each patient. This can be through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and other procedures.

Other experts

Cancer treatment may also involve other specialists. These include a surgeon, a radiation oncologist or a radiotherapist etc. But the complete therapy of cancer is coordinated by oncologists.

Relapse and remission

Once initial therapy is completed, oncologists are responsible for follow-up to detect patient relapse and remission. The former means cancer recurrence or return while remission means remaining cancer free.


Oncologists are also responsible for palliative or palliative care of patients with terminal malignancy. There are a number of ethical issues that need to concern the oncologist, including patient autonomy and choice in this and other aspects of treatment choice.

Cancer screening

Oncology and cancer research involve general population screening for cancer and screening of patients’ relatives (types of cancer thought to have a hereditary basis. For example, for breast cancer, both population screening by routine mammography and family screening by genetic analysis. BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are carried

Advances in Oncology

This makes oncology a constantly changing and developing field.


Oncology education

Clinical Oncology for Medical Students is a free eBook on the oncology care, including:

  • Epidemiology and Cancer Biology
  • Diagnosis with histopathology, cytology and tumor markers
  • Familial cancer and genetic testing
  • Cancer treatment and management
  • Professional issues, such as healthcare provider-patient communication and ethics
  • Common cancer types.

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