Oncologists are physicians specifically trained in the diagnosis, treatment and management of cancers - these doctors are experts at diagnosing cancer in addition to providing the most effective treatments.

Watch an Overview of Oncology

About Oncology

Oncology is a subspecialty of internal medicine concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of all forms of cancer. Oncologists become highly trained in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of cancers through extensive post-residency training, research and experience. Oncologists employ a wide range of diagnostic procedures, which may include biopsies, blood tests, tumor markers, positron emission tomographies, x-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, ultrasounds, PET scans and endoscopies, among others.

Oncologists are capable of providing a variety of treatments depending upon the diagnosis, including various forms of radiation therapy to kill cancer cells or surgical operations to remove tumors, among others. Perhaps the most well know therapy provided by oncologists is chemotherapy, but other treatments are also utilized in oncology. These may include radiotherapy, adjuvant therapy, hormone manipulation, monoclonal antibody treatments and vaccine and other immunotherapies.

Oncologists may also offer or prescribe palliative care, which serves to improve the quality of life in patients diagnosed with terminal or incurable cancer by attempting to relieve the side effects of treatments. Oncologists also provide a variety of therapies to help send patients into remission, whether complete or partial.

Oncology Education & Training

The training to become an oncologist commences with the completion a bachelor’s degree, which is usually in chemistry, biology, or public health, before earning an MD or DO medical degree from an accredited medical school. After graduating from medical school with an MD or DO degree, the physician must complete residency training in internal medicine, pediatrics, or general surgery - this training typically lasts three to four years, and provides the physician with training under experienced, licensed physicians.

After completion of the residency program, a fellowship in oncology is required. Oncology residencies generally last two to three years, and provide the physician with exposure to the various diagnostic and treatment techniques found in the field of oncology. Oncologists who plan to subspecialize in the field must complete additional training, which includes additional research and training in areas such as pediatric oncology, gynecologic oncology or surgical oncology.

Oncologists must complete licensure requirements in order to begin practicing. Many oncologists pursue board certification from the corresponding medical boards, such as the American Board of Internal Medicine or the American Board of Surgery.