Cancer is one of the most severe and frightening diseases with a high mortality rate. Research for the treatment is still in progress. Oncology is the branch of medical science concerned with cancer, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. Doctors, who specialize in the causes, symptoms, diagnosis of cancer, and its treatment, are known as Oncologists. As cancer afflicts thousands, the demand for oncologists is increasing daily; hence, their role is becoming increasingly important.
Types of Oncologists
An Oncologist, who treats cancer with varied medications like chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or targeted therapy, is known as a Medical Oncologist.
Surgeons who treat cancer by removing cancerous tissues and tumours are known as Surgical Oncologists.
Doctors who use radiation therapy as a treatment for cancer are known as radiation therapists.
Role of Oncologists
Every Oncologist must be able to communicate every step to the patient and their family about diagnosis, checkups, and treatment. It creates trust between the Oncologist and the patient and assures the patient that the Oncologist will not give up on them even if they face the most challenging part of the treatment.
Breaking the Terrible News
One of the most stressful jobs of an Oncologist is, no doubt, to let the patient and the patient’s family know that none of the treatment procedures are working and the patient doesn’t have much time. It has to be done with sensitivity, care, and empathy. The news should be broken to the patient in private and in the presence of family members. The Oncologist should first look into how much the patient knows about their conditions and clear off any discrepancies. The way of communicating this should be planned and done with utmost care and empathy.
Cancer patients experience various symptoms, like nausea, vomiting, depression, weakness, pain, fatigue, anxiety, and dyspnea. While a patient is battling cancer, it becomes the principal responsibility of the Oncologist to provide relief through non-tumor-related treatments. As dyspnea is found in advanced-level cancer patients, treatment for the same is also quite tricky. Hence, high skill and knowledge of the Oncologist are desirable.
Initiating Nutrition and Hydration
In the case of many cancer patients, a comprehensive plan for nutrition and hydration is critical. Artificial nutrition and hydrations have pros and cons; hence, Oncologists should discuss them with the family and patient before introducing any such treatment. In cases where oral therapy is impossible, gastrostomy and jejunostomy tubes may be introduced. But they should do everything with the consent of the patient and the patient’s family keeping in mind the side effects it might bring.
When the patient suffers from severe dyspnea and extreme and intolerable pain, they can prescribe delirium sedation in the family setting. Oral hydration and nutrition may be raised or stopped depending upon the patient’s medical condition and requirements. It is primarily based on the principle of double effect, which says that the first outcome is intended, that is, to reduce a patient’s pain significantly, and the second effect is based on unforeseen situations that might arise.
During the patient’s dying moments, an Oncologist must ensure that they are providing adequate relief to the patient and managing the symptoms effectively. Apart from providing medical support, the Oncologist should also provide emotional support to the patient’s family. As the family is going through an unimaginable personal loss, an Oncologist’s empathy in this situation will help to manage grief during such harsh times. So, the Oncologist must know well to deal with the family’s grief when the patient is in their dying moments or dies.
What Is Required to Become a Trained Oncologist?
After graduating from medical school, the physicians will have to take training in “Internal Medicine.” Oncology is a subspecialty of “Internal Medicine” that the students must take up. Then, medical Oncologists must take up a two to three years fellowship in “Medical Oncology.”
How to Find a top Oncologist?
You can look for recommendations from your family, friends, and loved ones. Also, you can check the past details of your doctor and their success rates. And lastly, look at the reputed hospitals which have made a mark in cancer treatment.
Cancer care is based on many things, including the relationship between the Oncologist and the patient. So, the Oncologist needs to build that relationship, not just with the patient but also with the patient’s family. As they go through the most challenging battles of their lives, empathy, effective communication, and moral support from the Oncologist will help them sail through these most difficult moments.