What is an Oncologist
What is an oncologist?
It is estimated that in several countries there are 380,000 new cases of cancer each year. The doctor in charge of finding the best therapy to treat it is the oncologist, also called "cancer specialist".
Photo Gustavo Fring in Pexels
An update on this medical specialty with Dr. Jean-Philippe Wagner, an oncologist in Dunkirk.
Oncology, also known as "oncology" or "carcinology", is the medical specialty in charge of the study, diagnosis and treatment of cancers, the consequences of an uncontrolled multiplication of certain cells in the human body.
It deals with all types of cancerous tumors, solid or not, localized or extensive.
The main objective of oncology is to understand the possible causes of cancers and their development process in order to prevent and cure them more effectively.
What does oncology cover?
Oncology is practiced by oncologists, more commonly called "cancérologists". These medical specialists make decisions about the best therapy to adopt for a given patient based on his personal characteristics, his general condition and the type of cancerous tumor he has: its location, its evolution and its prognosis.
This specialty is of a hospital nature and very often multidisciplinary, involving specialists of the affected organ, anatomopathologists, cytologists, surgeons, radiologists, radiotherapists, etc.
3 types of oncologists
What does an oncologist treat?
"The specialty that is taught during practice, and that gives us our ordinary qualification, is oncology, but it is synonymous with oncology," explains Dr. Jean-Philippe Wagner, an oncologist in Dunkirk. There are three types of oncologists:
- The medical oncologist: will prescribe anti-cancer drugs.
- The hematological oncologist who will deal with blood tumors.
- The radiation oncologist-radiotherapist who can develop radiation treatments as well as drugs.
"Initially, we all have a generalist training in oncology and then, depending on professional opportunities, we may specialize in a particular cancer if we wish.
Most of the time, in private institutions, they are generalist oncologists.
It is more in cancer centers or university hospitals that oncologists specialize in a specific type of cancer," says the specialist.
When should you see an oncologist?
The best thing to do is to consult an oncologist as early as possible in the course of treatment. In general, it is the family doctor who detects the first signs of cancer.
If there is a suspicion of cancer, the patient will first undergo several tests such as X-rays, ultrasounds and CT scans. Then, he will see an organ specialist and very often a surgeon because many cancers in their early stages are operated on.
"The oncologist usually intervenes after the diagnosis or even after the surgery. We would prefer the opposite, that the oncologist be consulted every time cancer is suspected," the oncologist laments.
How is a consultation made?
"The specialist who made the diagnosis will present the file in a multidisciplinary meeting in which the type of cancer and its stage will be known, taking into account that currently treatments are standardized for 90% of cancers.
At the end of this meeting, the patient is referred to the oncologist, who will check the procedure, make sure nothing has been forgotten, and propose treatment to the patient, giving him the advantages and disadvantages, possibly discussing the prognosis and organizing the patient's care if he is favorable to the treatment," emphasizes Dr. Jean-Philippe Wagner.
Preparing for your visit to the oncologist
The patient should collect all documents that have been given to him/her during the entire course of care, making sure that he/she has all the x-rays and tests that have been done.
The objective? To facilitate the first consultation and avoid the medical secretary having to go and get the documents.
"In addition, it is preferable for the patient to prepare questions, because he will inevitably have some, and he should think about coming along to better cope with the diagnostic shock," the oncologist advises.
"It's not an easy job, you have to want to be near death every day."
How do you become an oncologist?
After 6 years in medical school, you do a competition and if you get a good ranking, you can choose the oncology specialty.
Is necessary to do 5 years of practice and after 5 years, the thesis is approved, a dissertation is given and one is officially accepted as an oncologist by the order's council.
"It is not an easy job, you have to want to treat cancer and see death every day because only 50% of our patients are cured.
It requires being psychologically armed because cancer and death scare most people," the oncologist admits.