Oncology refers to the medical specialty aimed at diagnosing, preventing, and treating cancer.

What is it?

Oncologists treat and prevent cancer using medications (chemotherapy), surgery, or radiation therapy.  Many of these treatments are combined to provide personalized approaches to eradicating aggressive cancers.

What are the subspecialties?

Oncology is the broad practice of diagnosing, preventing and treating forms of cancer.  Within this specialty are many different subspecialties.  A few of these subspecialties are radiation oncology, neuro-oncology, pediatric oncology, surgical oncology, and hematology oncology. Hematology-oncology addresses diseases such as anemia, hemophilia, sickle cell disease, leukemia’s and lymphomas, as well as cancers of other organs.

What are the commonly associated medical diseases or symptoms?

The severity of cancer is ranked on a scale of 1(lowest) to 4(highest) depending on the degree of aggressiveness or spreading. Cancer can affect any part of the body with the most common types of cancer presenting in the breast, prostate, lungs, blood, and pancreas. Pancreatic cancer is difficult to identify because the affected cells in the pancreas do not secrete hormones, making this form of cancer difficult to detect.

What are the commonly associated medical procedures?

Common oncology treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy.  Currently, there is no recognized cure of cancer and treatments are designed as therapies.  These therapies are often combined to work in unison to eliminate cancer from the body.  Chemotherapy is the most common treatment for cancer, but also produces harmful results on non-cancer cells as well.

Are there any preventative measures I can take?

There is no universally recognized cause of cancer, but there is much speculation on behaviors and occurrences that predispose to cancer. Following accepted health recommendations cannot guarantee cancer prevention. However, routine cancer screenings and regular check-ups with a physician can detect cancer early while it is most easily treatable.  Other practices such as avoidance of tobacco, reduced consumption of alcohol, a balanced diet with less red meat, minimal exposure to harmful Ultra Violet light and regular physical activity are useful methods to reduce the risk of cancer.

What are the common misconceptions about this specialty?

One misconception is that deodorant, artificial sweeteners, and cell phones cause cancer.  There is no scientific connection between usage of these items and  cancer.  Cancer has, on the other hand, been linked to genetic mutations in cells or exposure to carcinogens like tobacco, pollution, radiation, and Ultra Violet rays.

Another common misconception is that if someone in a person’s family had cancer, then he or she will also experience cancer. However, only 5-10% of cancer is genetically linked.  If a person is found to have a hereditary associated cancer, there are sometimes options for other family members to be tested for a specific, cancerous gene. Routine check-ups are recommended for people with a known family history of cancer. It is important to recognize that every case is variable and that a combination of lifestyle exposures and behaviors should be considered in addition to family history.


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