Oncology is the field of medicine that involves the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Oncologists generally specialize in cancer treatment, but some focus on certain types of cancers, blood diseases (hematology), and specialized forms of treatment.
An oncologist diagnoses cancer, explains the diagnosis to the patient, and arranges treatment based on the stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis. Treatment may include medication, radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, or palliative medicine (treatment of symptoms to improve quality of life). Oncologists often coordinate medical care in conjunction with other specialists.
Because of the serious nature of cancer, oncologists should be compassionate and sensitive to patients’ needs, and clearly communicate the options for cancer treatment and pain management. The doctor-patient relationship is extremely important in oncology. Finding the right fit depends on a good rapport, ease of communication, shared philosophies on treatment and pain management, and overall trust.