Oncology – Study and Career Prospects

July 16, 2013

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Oncology is an important field of medicine that deals with the study, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. A doctor who specialises in this stream is called an Oncologist. 

Oncologists diagnose and treat cancer patients using a variety of treatment methods. They review specific symptoms of the cancer as well as the location and stage of the symptom. They also review the patient’s medical history, which plays a very significant role in the progression of the symptoms.

Depending on the manifestation and location of the symptoms, there are several different techniques that can be used to diagnose patients, from blood tests and biopsies, to Ultrasounds, X-Rays, CT scans and MRI scans.

Surgeons in the operating theatre

Cancer treatment options vary just as widely, depending upon the family history as well as the manifestation and location of the symptoms.  Some of the more commonly used treatments include radiation, hormone treatment, chemotherapy or surgery. Oncologists are also responsible for the follow up of their patients and have to consistently monitor them to ensure that the treatment was successful. In addition, they treat patients with issues such as nausea, depression, fatigue, pain, anorexia, pain or immobility, which are directly related to the cancer and its treatment. So all in all, they have a lot on their hands.


Training Required To Become An Oncologist

Studying and training to become an oncologist is not for the weak-hearted. You have to be prepared to spend several years studying to learn the skills and knowledge necessary to practise successfully in this field. You will have to first graduate from an accredited medical school, after which you will have to complete your residency training as a specialist in internal medicine and then do additional specialisation in oncology. Typically, this would involve a 3 to 4 year undergraduate program and then a 4-year medical program. Then, as a medical doctor you will have to undergo specialised training in the area of oncology. This could take anywhere from 3 years to 6 years.

After you graduate from the oncology program, you can choose to pursue an advance education and training in any of these subspecialty areas – radiation, gynaecological, paediatric, medical or surgical oncology. 

Oncology is not a static stream. There is progress being made almost daily in the cancer diagnoses and treatment front. With that in mind, it is very important to stay up to date with the latest treatment options and technical advances, and participate in ongoing continuing education throughout your career.

Students Hollie and Emily with their mentor in ObstetricsWhat Are The Career Prospects As An Oncologist?

 An aging population and increasing diagnoses of cancer and related diseases is expected to drive job growth for oncologists. Job prospects are expected to be very good especially for oncologists with advanced education and extensive experience. Opportunities will also arise from the need to replace oncologists who leave the field due to retirement, a transfer, or for other reasons.

While the career prospects in any medical stream are an important factor, it is very rarely the motivating reason for most students who choose to pursue oncology. To oncology students, the biggest incentive is the satisfaction of being able to provide the best treatment and care possible to those suffering from cancer.