Cancer doctors, as a collective group, is the generic layman’s term when referring to medical doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and the various ways of cancer treatment. Professionally, they are basically called oncologists.
They are further subdivided into three main types, with the types of treatment they are associated with as the basis – medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and surgical oncologists.
In addition, there is also the gynecological oncologist (for female cancer patients) and the pediatric oncologist (specializing children patients with cancer). All of these medical practitioners are called cancer doctors.
Education and Training
If you aspire to be a medical doctor, you must be prepared to spend away a good chunk of your life for the long years it takes to become one. To be one of these revered cancer doctors, or oncologists, takes even longer.
First, you must finish your regular college years (4 years) before you are entitled to study in medical school for your doctorate degree for the next 4 years. This will qualify you to do your 3-year residency (including the intern year) in internal medicine.
At the homestretch, you have to proceed to do another 3 years of hematology/oncology or medical oncology fellowship. Finally, you need to pass the necessary board exams to be able to be certified in your field.
Since cancer is one tricky and complex disease, the styles and the sequence of treatments had evolved to what is mostly in practice these days. This is the reason why there are different types of cancer doctors when in fact they are treating the same disease.
With the complicated characteristics present in cancer, there were ways devised to attack the disease. Medical science developed a multi-pronged treatment of the disease, and with better success rates than sticking to only one treatment form.
Medical oncologists are the cancer doctors who treat cancer patients through the use of good old medicine. The number of years studying this specialty says much of the complexity and the variations of the disease.
As the patient, your medical oncologist is in charge of your general care and does the coordination with the other forms of your treatment from the other specialists. This includes the chemotherapy, hormone therapy and immunotherapy.
Those who attack the disease using the latest and the best that radiation therapy (and technology) are called radiation oncologists. This treatment type has good success rates in a number of cancer types.
The surgical oncologist is another member of cancer doctors whose specialty is surgery. He might be called first to diagnose cancer with a biopsy before any decision is made to do a surgical procedure on the patient.
In the end, sometimes not every cancer patient needs all three types of treatments. This is because some cancer types respond well to just one mode of treatment.