An oncologist is a doctor who specializes in cancer. He is more than just a person who prescribes chemotherapy or other treatments to cure cancer or control it. Oncologists are doctors who, as part of a holistic concept, help cancer patients to live as long and as well as possible.
Oncologists’ jobs include advising you on chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery, but that’s not all.
An oncologist is a care coordinator who works as part of a larger team composed of physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers concerned with the well-being of cancer patients. By building a relationship with your oncologist, you have the opportunity to tap into the skills, knowledge and professional connections of the entire team to
help you and your family better cope with the challenges of living with serious cancer.
The appointment with your oncologist
When you visit an oncologist, it’s important to give them a picture of who you are. In addition to talking about your condition, it is also important to give him information about:
• Your family
• Your interests
• Your hopes
• Your fears
• Key goals you would like to achieve
• The amount of information you would like to receive
Your relationship with your oncologist can be a powerful tool
- They can help you make decisions about possible therapies
- As a care coordinator, they can help you to take advantage of all available care options to
better manage your condition
- They can be your guide in navigating the bureaucracy often involved in accessing care services
- They can be a valuable source of knowledge, advice and personal support for you and your family.
Your relationship with your oncologist lasts as long as you need them.
A relationship with an oncologist is a long-term relationship.
If your cancer is curable, you will need follow-up care and a follow-up strategy after treatment.
When your condition is incurable, you need ongoing care to keep you well for as long as possible. The oncologist supports you and your family on this path.
What is an oncology and an oncology center?
There are different types of oncology facilities. An oncology clinic is usually an internal department that specializes in the diagnosis, therapy and aftercare of patients with tumor diseases.
Oncological centers are set up to meet the rapidly increasing demand for comprehensive, holistic, multidisciplinary and integrative oncological care for the population . The quality-assured training and further education of doctors and nursing staff, psychological and social services is the most important guarantee that high-quality and comprehensive medical care can be provided for patients based on the current state of medical knowledge.
All types of blood and tumor diseases are usually treated in oncological centers. The concept of the center reflects the modern approach to cancer treatment. “The best treatment results are achieved through close interdisciplinary cooperation between many different experts from diagnostic, surgical and drug treatment departments as well as radiation therapy,” says Dr. Pink.
For example, specialists in hematology and oncology , together with specialists from other disciplines , look after patients with all types of tumor diseases – but also with diseases of the blood and the lymphatic system. Oncologists from other medical disciplines – such as gynecology or urology, on the other hand – usually specialize in the comprehensive care of patients with tumors from their field.
The tasks of oncology
Oncology, in the sense of a generic term for the entire care of tumor patients, includes a large number of areas of responsibility that are covered by increasingly specialized disciplines. The resulting closely coordinated, good cooperation is a decisive prerequisite for the best possible therapy for tumor patients.
“Our common goal is to get an all-encompassing view of the disease of each individual patient and to coordinate the next best possible treatment steps, which are individually tailored to them,” explains Dr. Pink. He adds: “The well-established ones, all Aspects covering networks with a clear division of tasks, such as in certified oncological centers are a very good basis”.
The aim of prevention is to avoid the occurrence of tumor diseases or to suppress their spread in the body . This includes, for example:
- removing colon polyps that could lead to colon cancer
- Carrying out early detection/screening examinations
- Smoking cessation to prevent lung cancer
- Research on carcinogenesis
The anamnesis (Greek: memory) is considered the key to the diagnosis of diseases. In the anamnesis interview, the doctor learns about the patient’s medical history and can gain important additional tips and information by asking specific questions . Based on this information, further special investigations are planned. These include, for example:
- Imaging diagnostics for suspected tumor diseases and for checking known tumor foci
- Obtaining of tissue and histological/pathological evaluation of the tissue
- Laboratory tests of body fluids
If the suspicion of cancer has been confirmed, the therapy aims either to remove or destroy all of the tumor tissue or, if this is no longer possible, to isolate the tumor. The aim is then to prolong the life of the patient and to maintain the best possible quality of life for him. The main treatment methods include:
- surgical tumor removal
- other drug measures
- psycho-oncological support
- Advice/diagnostics regarding hereditary tumor risks
- palliative medicine
When the actual cancer treatment is over, patients are advised to attend a medical follow-up. “Follow-up care often extends over a period of five years , but depending on the type of tumor it can also be much longer,” explains Dr. Pink. As a rule, it is continued until the risk of a recurrence (recurrence) for the patient has decreased significantly. A special focus in the context of aftercare is also the recognition and, if necessary, treatment of possible consequential damage from the tumor therapies carried out. In this phase it is important to accompany and support the patient not only medically but also psychosocially. Follow-up care includes:
- Follow-up examinations at increasingly longer intervals
- Psycho-oncological care
- rehabilitation measures
- Adjusting diet and exercise habits
What is happening in pediatric oncology
Even very small and young people can develop cancer. Pediatric oncology deals with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and blood diseases and is a special field in pediatric and adolescent medicine . Children between the ages of 0 and 18 are cared for in children’s oncology wards . Cancers in children and adolescents differ from those in adults. They are more likely to develop types of cancer that do not occur at all or only rarely in adults.
It is therefore particularly important here that they are treated by paediatricians who specialize in pediatric cancer medicine. Thanks to the great advances in therapy, more and more childhood cancers are becoming curable .
Involving the parents in the treatment is also crucial for the therapy. Many young patients do not yet understand why they are ill and need treatment. Your parents are then an important support because they can give your child security and trust. It is also necessary to organize aspects of normal life. These include, for example, school lessons in the hospital and the care of siblings.
What is the difference between hematology and oncology?
Hematology is the science of blood diseases . Patients with all forms of benign and malignant blood diseases are treated here. Oncology, in turn, is the science of tumor and tumor diseases. The oncologists take care of patients with solid tumors. They are called “solid” because their structure is solid and not liquid.
In many countries, hematology and oncology are separate departments. In Germany there are also some hospitals with independent hematology and oncology clinics or specialist departments, but mostly there is also a common structure for the care of hematology and oncology patients. This also applies to most specialist practices. Although the microscopic assessment of blood and bone marrow smears plays a major role for hematologists in contrast to oncologists, there are many similarities and comparable procedures between the specialist areas .
What is an oncologist?
“An oncologist is a specialist in oncology. He advises and cares for patients with suspected or proven tumor diseases,” says Dr. Pink. The tasks of an oncologist usually include the overall control of the therapy, the implementation of drug therapy and help with problems in everyday life, such as support in applying for a degree of disability, pensions or rehabilitation measures.
How do I become an oncologist?
Physicians in various medical fields can undergo further training or develop into oncologists. In internal medicine, there is the opportunity to first acquire a specialist in internal medicine in a general five-year further training period at a correspondingly recognized further training institution. After a further at least three-year period of further training, the “Specialist in Internal Medicine, Hematology and Oncology” can be acquired. Overall, the period of further training usually lasts eight years .
What specializations are there for oncologists?
Due to scientific progress and ever more complex diagnostic and therapeutic options, there are many hematologists and oncologists who represent the entire subject in private practice. In larger oncology facilities, hematologists and oncologists are increasingly specializing in the care of patients with certain tumor diseases , such as tumors of the digestive tract or lung tumors as well as tumors of the connective and supporting tissue. However, these are usually not structured specializationsthat require exams to be taken. Operative oncologists can often obtain a classification as an expert when they have reached a corresponding level of experience or the prescribed number of operations for defined interventions. These are then so-called senior operators .
Diagnostic means of an oncologist
The haematologist can independently diagnose blood and bone marrow smears and often use this to diagnose a corresponding haematological disease. Otherwise, hematologists and oncologists work closely with all diagnostic department partners such as radiologists, nuclear medicine specialists, pathologists, laboratory physicians and human geneticists and use the entire diagnostic spectrum for the diagnosis.
How important is the relationship between doctor and patient for the treatment?
A close and good therapeutic relationship between patient and doctor is one of the decisive prerequisites for the best possible treatment of cancer. This relationship should be characterized by mutual trust and respect.
The oncologist must also understand the often very stressful life situation of cancer patients . It is often not only the treatment of the actual tumor disease that plays a major role in day-to-day care, but also psychological, social or other problems of everyday life. Many oncologists approach solving these problems with great commitment and passion.