What is an oncologist?
An oncologist is a doctor who has studied oncology, the branch of medicine which deals with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Oncology generally focus on improving survival chances when cancer occurs, through prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment (MedicineNet.com).
The services of an oncologist are considered eligible for reimbursement with a consumer-directed healthcare account. There are three main divisions within oncology, including medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, and radiation oncologists. Medical oncologists focus on the treatment of cancer with chemotherapy, immunotherapy and hormonal therapy. Surgical oncologists focus on the treatment of cancer with surgery. Radiation oncologists focus on the treatment of cancer with radiation (Cancer.Net).
There are also many sub-specialties within oncology which focus on various areas of the body, such as the reproductive system, urinary system, bone and muscles, breasts, eyes, etc.
Most patients with cancer symptoms will spend the majority of their time with a medical oncologist. At later stages of treatment or diagnosis, radiation and/or surgical oncologists may become involved. A surgical oncologist, for example, may help in diagnosing a cancer with a biopsy.
When meeting with an oncologist, the first topic of discussion should be an individual's medical history. It's best to write a timeline of medical issues in order to maintain accuracy. Additionally, when meeting for the first time with an oncologist it's a good idea to bring copies of all medical records and any materials requested by their office, including X-rays, scans, imaging tests, etc. It's also important to bring a list (or the actual items) of all medications actively used, whether prescription, Over-the-Counter (OTC), or herbal/supplementary.
When asking questions of an oncologist during that first meeting, it's good to ensure one walks away with a solid understanding of several factors. These factors include the diagnosis and timeline for starting therapy, the list of treatment options, side effects and risks of each treatment, impact on life/routine during treatment, and points of contact for all discussions after the initial appointment.