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Oncologist Career Prospects

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 7 Feb 2016 | comments*Discuss
Career Cancer Oncology Health Cancer

If the idea of treating patients who suffer from one of the most devastating illnesses – cancer – seems like a career that would be enormously satisfying and rewarding, then consider a career in oncology. An oncologist is a medical doctor who has received extensive training in the treatment methods for cancer. This kind of physician will receive in-depth education and may even specialise in the treatment of one particular kind of cancer. For instance, an oncologist can specialise in chemotherapy, radiation treatment or surgery in oncology. Some oncologists will even specialise in paediatrics, which involves working with children and adolescents. Another area of specialisation is women's health, where an oncologist can specialise in treating cancers in female organs.

The Specialty of Oncology

Oncologists are well-trained to know how to identify cancer from the symptoms presented by a patient. An oncologist will order diagnostic tests to allow him or her to examine the signs of cancer and formulate an accurate diagnosis. Then, the oncologist will advise the patient on the best way to approach treatment successfully. Treatment may involve a singular approach or a combination of treatments to help ensure the best outcome. Given that cancer research is an area that is rapidly changing and evolving, an oncologist will constantly be learning about new developments. In this sense, an oncologist career is best suited to a person who enjoys learning new things and can handle the challenges of staying up-to-date on all the newest developments in the field, particularly those related to the treatment of cancer. Some oncologists will also participate in cancer research, where they may work in academia on the side while also treating patients.

Training to Become an Oncologist

Training and education to become an oncologist is not for the weak-hearted! Generally, an oncologist spends many years studying to learn the skills and knowledge needed to successfully work in the oncology field. Typically, a three to four year undergraduate program is undertaken before an approximately four year medical program begins. Then, a medical doctor will spend anywhere from a few years to six years receiving specialised training in the area of oncology.

There are also universities that allow for five year, intensive educational programs for the medical degree aspect, before a physician goes on to specialise and complete their internship. In addition, there are numerous qualifying examinations throughout the process. In short, the education is expensive and time consuming but the personal and financial rewards of this health care career are high.

Handling the Workload and Patients

Oncologists are working in a very sensitive and difficult area, namely because they are treating patients who can have very poor prospects and will have to undertake painful, debilitating treatments to eradicate the cancer. The emotional aspect of this kind of health care work can be daunting because an oncologist will see people who may be in a very distressed emotional state as well as suffering from pain from their disease. Pain management plays a large role in oncology as well.

If you care deeply about helping patients in an area of health that can have devastating consequences for patients and their families, then your dedication to the field will be well worth it. You need to be able to make decisions about patient health care. You should also have good communication skills as well as a desire to provide education and information to patients so they can participate in their health care and make informed decisions about their treatment. For the right person, an oncology career can be successful and very beneficial to their own personal career satisfaction and the treatment of cancer patients.

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