Is Becoming an Oncologist Worth It?

Being an oncologist offers several personal and professional rewards, such as saving lives, advancing in the medical field, gaining prestige and living a comfortable lifestyle. Although oncology has its pros and cons, such as years of rigorous studies, many doctors consider this career worthwhile. Perhaps you should first explain what a 'clinical oncologist does', because even other doctors often don't really know. Oncology, or cancer care, is covered by a variety of specialties.

Surgeons specializing in cancer operations may call themselves oncologists, for example, “gyneoncology”. For doctors there are two specialties, “medical” and “clinical” oncology. Medical oncology focuses on pharmacological treatments for cancer, including chemotherapy, hormones, and biological agents. Clinical oncology involves administering pharmacological treatments, but also the use of radiation therapy, often as a combined approach. Treatments can be curative, adjuvant or palliative.

Oncologists are doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating cancer using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy, and targeted therapy. Oncologists are often the primary healthcare provider for a person who has cancer. There are two main subtypes of nonsurgical oncologists: medical oncologists and clinical oncologists. Atiq, MD, medical oncologist and physician featured in the AMA “Shadow Me Specialty Series”, offering advice directly from doctors about life in their specialties. While most types of oncologists follow similar paths to complete their training and education, those working in certain specialties can obtain additional training and certification.

Medical oncologists will work with clinical oncologists, specialized nurses and administrative staff, as well as surgical oncologists, radiologists, histopathologists, other health professionals and research professionals and other professions related to medicine. As an expert in the field of oncology, I have seen many people struggle with the decision to pursue this career path. However, I now feel a desire to do something more impactful and my new interest in oncology and the other medical elements that surround it (radiology, pathology, surgery) makes me think that it would be worth all the effort to pursue a career in this field. The outlook should be especially good for oncologists who are willing to practice in rural and low-income areas, as these areas tend to struggle to attract doctors. Research is often conducted with the goal of developing new technologies for cancer treatment that benefit patients, and clinical oncologists often conduct and participate in clinical trials. At the beginning of each shift, there will be a multidisciplinary team meeting where plans for the day will be discussed, after which clinical oncologists will usually go to the outpatient clinic and conduct ward rounds to view and evaluate inpatients. An oncologist's job generally revolves around making a cancer diagnosis, discussing treatment options with the patient, and organizing and supervising drug treatment and the entire therapeutic process, including the patient's progress after treatment. For those passionate about medical practice, the natural sciences, and helping others, a career as an oncologist can be an excellent choice.

Medical oncologists also conduct inpatient evaluations and hold multidisciplinary team meetings, in addition to devoting part of their time to teaching and training functions. Depending on the type of oncologist you want to become, you may follow a different path of training and residency. A portion of a clinical oncologist's time is spent writing notes, preparing reports for general practitioners and other physicians, and other administrative tasks. An oncologist should also be able to communicate with the patient and family in a clear and concise manner that they can appreciate.