An oncologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
If you are looking for a career in medicine and have a particular interest in cancer, then you might like to become an oncologist.
Many oncologists work in hospitals, where they will diagnose and treat patients who are suffering from cancer.
They may prescribe treatment plans which could include pharmacy drugs, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or surgery.
They will care for their patients during and after their treatment, and also provide soothing care for those with terminal cases.
Oncology is also concerned with the ethics of cancer treatment, and many oncologists contribute to research into cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Education Requirements to Become an Oncologist
If you would like to work as an oncologist, you will first need to become a medical doctor.
At high school you will need to get excellent grades that will allow you entry into a good college.
You will need to complete a four year bachelors degree in pre-medicine.
After you graduate from college and take the MCAT, you can apply to medical school.
You entry will be based on your grade point average, examination scores, and an interview.
Medical school takes four years to complete, and during this time you will take on a mixture of coursework and practical experience working with patients.
At this point, you can take examinations to become certified as a medical doctor in your state.
You can find out your state’s specific requirements for licensure from the Federation of State Medical Boards.
You will then need to get a placement as an intern in a hospital.
A hospital with a strong oncology department would be ideal.
After internship you will need to complete a residency, then go on to an oncology fellowship or specialization.
To become a certified oncologist you will need to apply to the American Board of Medical Specialties.
Oncologist Job Description
When you become an oncologist, you will work to diagnose and treat patients who have cancer.
Usually a patient is referred to an oncologist by another medical professional.
They may have a range of symptoms which could suggest the occurrence of cancer.
An oncologist will review these symptoms as well as the patient’s medical history.
An oncologist will then order tests to confirm a diagnosis.
These could be a CAT or MRI scan, a biopsy, exploratory surgery, ultrasound, or a range of other tests.
The results will be reviewed, and the oncologist will form a diagnosis.
It is also your responsibility when you become an oncologist to break the news of their diagnosis to a patient, which can be very difficult at times.
The next step is a treatment plan.
Many instances of cancer can be treated to remission.
In other cases palliative care is applied to prolong a patient’s life and also the quality of their time.
In some types and stages of cancer, treatment is not an option at all.
Treatment can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, and a wide range of other treatment possibilities.
An oncologist will follow up with their patients as their treatment continues.
Once a patient enters remission, they will still have regular consultations with an oncologist, often for the rest of their lives.
Oncologist Salary and Career Path
During the many years of training it takes to become an oncologist, you can expect to work under the supervision of other doctors.
Often these programs take place in a learning hospital.
Once you become an oncologist you will have your own patients, and you may work out of a hospital, or in consulting rooms with other patients.
Many oncologists start their careers in a hospital, and later move on to private practice.
Some move into research in the field of oncology, working towards better screening measures, diagnosis, and treatment of patients.
A medical specialist such as an oncologist can expect to earn close to the median salary of $300,000 a year.
Those in private practice will earn more than those in a public hospital.
Researchers may be paid less than those working with patients.
Some similar roles to that of an oncologist include:
- Medical doctor
- Medical researcher
If you are looking towards a career in medicine that can really make a difference to the health and life of patients, then you might like to become an oncologist.