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What is Oncology?

Amy Pollick
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Oncology, at its most basic level, involves the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The word oncology comes from the Greek word meaning "mass" or "bulk," referring to tumors. A doctor who specializes in oncology is called an oncologist.

Oncology involves a huge range of study. Since cancer can occur in so many of the body's systems, many doctors choose to specialize in a particular branch of it, such as bone cancer or blood diseases. Some doctors specialize in chemotherapy treatments, while others focus on radiation therapy. Most doctors who specialize in oncology serve internships and residencies that focus on cancer treatment, usually in their preferred branch of therapy. A specialist often serves about four years beyond the normal residency period.

Oncology also involves research into cancer, its causes and possible cures. This is also a wide-open field for scientists interested in a variety of research opportunities. Some facilities, such as St. Jude's Children's Hospital, in Memphis, Tennessee, is primarily a research institution. Oncology researchers continue to look for ways to treat even the rarest forms of cancer in humans.

Oncology has come a long way since early surgeons were able only to excise tumors with the most primitive means. It has leaped forward even in the past 25 years or so, with huge improvements in prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Doctors agree that early detection, if not prevention, is the best way to deal with cancer, and oncology also covers this facet of medicine. From this philosophy, tests like the Prostate-Specific Antigen panel have come into being. This test alone has saved countless men through early detection of prostate cancer or pre-cancerous conditions. Other exams, such as mammograms, represent huge strides in the early detection and treatment of breast cancer, while the Pap smear assists in early diagnosis of cervical cancer.

Oncology is an ever-broadening field with failures, it is true, but also with spectacular successes.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Amy Pollick
By Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at The Health Board. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.
Discussion Comments
By anon163952 — On Mar 29, 2011

prevention is the best way to have a good life and for our health, but also many people are dying of cancer.

Do we really need to avoid plastic ?

By anon129429 — On Nov 23, 2010

could someone tell me what an oncology social worker really does?

By InfoHopper — On Jul 14, 2010

@fitness234 - Prevention is one of the best ways to fight cancer and I applaud you for your efforts! Our communities should not forget all of the fund-raising that goes on to help further cancer research as well. Any way to help is a good way!

Another cancer prevention tip, especially during hot summers, is to make sure to not leave water bottles in your car. Chemicals from some plastic bottles can get into the water and have been found to be some causes of breast cancer in women.

By fitness234 — On Jul 11, 2010

I think prevention is the best way to fight off cancer.

My father is a skin cancer survivor and constantly urges others to use protective sun screen lotions and hats.

I personally avoid sweeteners that have been linked to higher cancer rates and I try to reduce certain foods, such as red meat, in my diet.

I praise the work of oncologist researchers around the world for their further exploration of this devastating disease.

Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at The Health Board...
Learn more
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