03 May How to Become an Oncologist
Are you interested in pursuing a career in oncology? If yes, you need to understand what oncology is. It is a branch of medicine dealing with cancer and tumors. It involves the diagnosis and treatment of cancer among patients as well as palliative care. Medical professionals who specialize in oncology are called oncologists. The diagnosis and treatment of cancer requires oncologists to review a patient’s medical history, location and stage of cancer as well as specific symptoms of the disease. Diagnosis is usually made through various tests such as blood tests, x-rays, biopsies, ultrasound, MRI, and CT scans.
What Do Oncologists Do?
As for the treatment, oncologists provide their patients with different options like hormone treatment, radiation, surgery and chemotherapy. However, the work of an oncologist does not end in cancer diagnosis and treatment. They are also required to monitor their patients after treatment and treat other issues associated with cancer like depression, pain, nausea and fatigue.
Aside from having an expertise in oncology, oncologists also need to develop good communication skills to allow them to empathize and work with their patients effectively. Cancer patients are going through a difficult process. They are experiencing mixed emotions so it is important to have a doctor whom they can not only depend for treatment but also inspire them to go on. Oncologists also need to advise their patients to observe preventive measures to fight cancer.
How to Become an Oncologist
The first step in becoming an oncologist is graduating in college with a Bachelor’s degree in sciences or public health. After graduation, he must pass the Medical College Admission test and enroll in a medical school program. The test score must be submitted with an application to any medical school.
Upon admission, you are to attend and finish medical school. This takes another four years. The first two years in medical school involves classroom and laboratory education and includes courses on biochemistry, anatomy and pathology. The last two years are dedicated for rotations in various clinics and hospitals.
After graduating, a student is required to complete an internship and residency program. A residency program in the specialty you might choose usually lasts for another three to four years. When the residency program is completed, you take board certification as well as the licensure examinations for oncologists.
An oncologist also has to continuously update his or her license and be familiarized with new developments in the field of oncology by attending seminars and classes. It is also recommended to take fellowship programs to train you as certified specialist.
An oncologist can specialize in more than one area of oncology and treatment of cancer. He can combine two different treatments to cure a patient. Additional training in other methods of treatment can also be acquired. Career opportunities in oncology range from generalist positions to those with subspecialties in pediatric oncology, gynecological oncology, oncology surgeon and radiation oncology. The general oncologist treats patients diagnosed with cancer by creating a treatment plan which may include surgical and non surgical procedures. A gynecologic oncologist treats female patients only. They have usually completed training as gynecologist/obstetrician. Pediatric oncology deals with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer affecting patients below eighteen years old. Oncology surgery involves the removal of cancer tumors through a surgical process while radiation oncology refers to the cancer treatment using technology that is similar to an x-ray.
A career in oncology is not an easy path to follow. It entails a lot of discipline, studying and hard work. Although oncologists are one of the highest paid in the medical profession, it is also one of the most stressful and demanding line of work. So before deciding on pursuing it, assess yourself if you are up to the demands and challenges of the job. It also helps to do volunteer work in the cancer wards of hospitals. This will give you a firsthand experience on how to deal with cancer patients.
Being an oncologist requires more than an expertise in oncology. Since they are dealing with persons diagnosed with cancer, oncologists must possess good personal skills. They must be able to empathize with their patients while remaining objective. They also need to be compassionate and always ready to make quick decisions. Oncology doctors are one of the highest paid professionals with an average annual salary ranging from $200,000 to more than $300,000.