Oncologists study tumors, particularly cancer. This medical field is often associated with hematology (the study of the blood). Strictly speaking, oncologists deal only with solid tumors and not with cancers of the blood. Today, however, hematologist/oncologists are certified to deal with both types of cancer.

Oncology requires expertise in a large number of medical and technical disciplines, from surgery to nutrition, immunology to biochemistry, and diagnosis of symptoms to treatment of tumors with nuclear radiation.


There are subspecialties within the field of oncology. The medical oncologist is primarily responsible for prescribing and implementing chemotherapy, along with diagnosing and treating complications unique to cancer and coordinating the total treatment plan for cancer patients.

Surgical oncologists perform cancer surgery. Pediatric oncologists diagnose and treat cancer in children. Gynecologic oncologists deal with cancer that occurs in the female reproductive system. Radiation oncology is concerned with the application of radiation in the treatment of cancer.

After graduating from medical school, a medical oncologist completes an internship and a residency in internal medicine, followed by an additional training program in oncology, which includes training in hematology and chemotherapy.

Surgical oncologists are usually general surgeons who have completed a fellowship in cancer surgery. Pediatric and gynecologic oncologists are first certified in their respective fields and then go on to oncology fellowships. A specialist in radiation oncology must complete a one-year internship, either rotating among specialties or in internal medicine, followed by a three-year residency in the specialty.

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