Oncology is the study of the causes, properties, disease progressions and
treatments of tumors and cancers. An oncologist is a physician who specializes
in treating cancer.
Within the field, there are more areas of specialty. Gynecologic oncology
is the medical study and treatment of cancers of the female reproductive organs,
such as ovarian or uterine cancer. Neurologic oncology involves cancers of
the brain and nervous system. Radiation oncology investigates the use of X-rays,
gamma rays or electrons to destroy cancers.
Oncologists go through years of rigorous medical training. They not only
need a biological and medical aptitude, but determination and perseverance.
Gynecological oncologist Dr. Beth Karlan says you have to be motivated to
do the seemingly impossible.
"If you tell me something's impossible, I'll do it just to show you're
wrong," she says.
Other skills oncologists need are a high level of intelligence, good health
and self-discipline. They need good business sense and the ability to organize
the work of others. The profession also demands that they continue to study
new developments in oncology and medicine throughout their career.
Finally, they should also be able to deal with many different kinds of
people. When a patient hears what seems like a death sentence -- a diagnosis
of advanced cancer -- they need an understanding friend. According to oncologist
Dr. E. Roy Berger, "a good doctor can be that."
The majority of oncologists are in private practice. They see patients
by appointment in their offices and examining rooms, and visit patients who
are confined to the hospital. Some oncologists are in academic medicine and
teach in medical schools and hospitals, while some are engaged only in research.