What is an oncologist?

An oncologist is a highly specialised doctor who investigates, diagnoses and treats cancer.
There are a number of different types of oncologists. Let’s start with medical oncologists. They use medicines including chemotherapy, immunotherapy and hormone therapy to treat cancer.

What does an oncologist do?

Surgical oncologists perform surgery to remove tumours, and also take biopsies for examination in a laboratory for diagnosis.

Radiation oncologists treat cancer by administering high doses of radiation that are carefully targeted to destroy cancer cells and reduce tumours in your body.

Oncologists may specialise in types of cancers or parts of the body that may be affected by cancer, for example paediatric oncologists who treat children with cancer, or head and neck specialist oncologists.

Why would you see an oncologist?

Patients see oncologists if cancer is suspected so they can receive a diagnosis and start a treatment plan.
They may already be on a treatment pathway for cancer, and may need to see a different type of oncologist. For example, a patient who has undergone surgery for breast cancer may also need to see a medical oncologist for further treatment.

What do oncologists treat?

Oncologists treat a range of different types of cancer that can occur in any area of the body, and their care extends from their first consultation with you to diagnosis, formulating a treatment plan, carrying out treatment and providing after-care.

Within these tasks, the scope of their work is quite detailed. If you are diagnosed with cancer, your oncologist will explain the characteristics of your cancer and the stage it is at.

They will also explain what treatments are available for your particular type of cancer and talk through the options with you.

Oncologists also have a duty to provide help with any side effects of treatment, such as nausea following chemotherapy.

How long does an oncology appointment last?

This depends where you are on your cancer treatment journey.

Your first oncology appointment may take one to two hours to allow time for paperwork to be completed, for you to be weighed and measured, and for blood tests to be carried out.

And, of course, you will meet with your oncologist and discuss your medical history and your current diagnosis and treatment plan.

The time for subsequent appointments may be shorter or longer, depending on your treatment. For example, a chemotherapy session may take several hours, or a radiotherapy appointment may only take 15 minutes. It all depends on your personal treatment plan.

How do I find an oncologist?

If you have symptoms that could be cancer, you will need to see your GP without delay. They may carry out initial tests, and make a referral to an oncologist to provide specialist care explaining that you have the option to search for one yourself if you wish.

If this is the case, you will understandably have many questions such as how do I find the best oncologist in Australia, or, simply, where can I find an oncologist near me?

It’s good to know that to work as an oncologist, a healthcare professional will have studied medicine to gain their initial doctor’s qualification, then specialised in oncology for five or six years.

They are also usually fellows of the appropriate professional body. For medical oncologists, this is the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, for surgical oncologists the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and for radiation oncologists, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists.

What’s also really useful when you are making important decisions about your health is to have trusted information and reviews about healthcare professionals at your fingertips.

This is where Whitecoat comes in – with reviews and ratings from fellow patients and the ability to search for healthcare professionals easily, we take the stress out of finding an oncologist who can help you.

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