Oncology is the study of cancerous tumors, while an oncologist is a doctor that treats cancer. Although different countries and schools of medicine may divide oncologists into several different categories and specialties, in America, there are two main types of oncologists. A radiation oncologist is a doctor that specializes in radiation treatment of cancer, known as radiation therapy, or more simply, radiotherapy.
Radiation oncology does not include chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is treated by a medical oncologist.
In some countries, a clinical oncologist handles both radiation therapy as well as chemotherapy. Surgical oncology deals with the surgical treatment of tumors. Surgical oncologists are split into several specialties that focus on cancers infecting particular areas of the body.
Today, thanks to improving technology in the field of radiation oncology, about 70 percent of all cancer treatment plans include radiation therapy. Some of these involve strictly radiation treatment while some, more severe cases of cancer call for a combination of radiation and chemotherapy treatment.
Choosing a oncologist
As can be expected, the more experience a doctor has in oncology the higher their success record becomes in successful treatment of their patients. Choosing a oncologist then becomes a potentially vital part of your treatment. You may be literally putting your life in the hands of the doctor you choose.
In addition to experience in treating patients, training and experience with the latest technologies is also important since new technologies are capable of providing better treatment of cancer. IMRT, for example, is a reliably new method of therapy that allows for higher doses of radiation to be delivered to a tumor while sparing surrounding healthy tissue.
Some oncologists do not even have access to new technologies such as IMRT. In cases where access is available, doctors may have little or no training and little or no experience.
To receive the best treatment possible, as a patient it would be beneficial to seek out a oncologist that is both experienced with the latest technologies as well as practices at a facility that has access to these technologies.
Bedside manner is important as well. A person can generally tell whether they'll get along with within a few minutes of meeting them. You're under enough stress just from the discovery that you have or may have cancer. Having to put up with an oncologist you do not get along with can be detrimental to your health, especially if your relationship with your doctor is so bad that you loathe going to see him or her.
However, a radiation oncologist's ability to give you the best treatment possible may trump all else. Choose wisely.