What is Medical Oncology?

Medical oncology involves treating cancer and cancer related conditions with the use of medication and other specialized treatments. A medical oncologist is a specialist who can diagnose and treat cancer using drugs such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy or targeted agents. They specialize in the treatment of many cancers, including lymphoma and leukemia, and can help to prepare a patient for a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. There is active research in this field and new drugs and treatment combinations become available on a regular basis. Through affiliations and other partnerships, some Vantage Oncology treatment facilities provide access to medical oncology physicians and related services.




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Medical oncologists evaluate the patient in conjunction with other doctors such as a surgeon and radiation oncologist to affirm the most appropriate drug combinations to treat the cancer. Medical oncologists will monitor patient progress after treatment and can also assist in managing pain and disability or recommend comfort or Hospice care. Most medical oncology clinics have their own laboratories, which enables the physician to rapidly assess blood abnormalities and make decisions on therapy.

Medical oncologists also specialize in hematology, which is blood, the blood-forming organs, and blood related diseases. Blood diseases affect the production of blood and its components, such as blood cells, hemoglobin, blood proteins, blood clotting, etc. Our physicians who specialize in hematology are called hematologists. With the ability to treat hematologic cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia, medical oncologists can utilize a variety of treatment methods to develop the optimal treatment plan. 

Medical Oncology Consultation


Initial Consultation

During the initial consultation, the patient will be interviewed and examined by a medical oncologist/hematologist. To help us understand the patient's medical status, we will need to obtain copies of medical records, health history, prescribed medications, and recent medical visits with other specialists, and if applicable, any biopsy reports. We will review the information with the patient and family members and answer any questions they may have.  Patients may continue their routine prescription medications unless advised otherwise by their physician.

Diagnosis

Not all patients that routinely see a medical oncologist have cancer.  Patients are often referred to a medical oncologist for a hematologic malignancy or blood disorder.  If this is the case and once the medical oncologist diagnoses the condition, he/she will prescribe a treatment and follow-up protocol.  In the event the patient is referred to the medical oncologist for a cancer diagnosis, a blood work-up, or CBC may be taken, as well as a bone-marrow biopsy.  The medical oncologist may order a biopsy of the tumor site if one has not already been taken and will also order body scans such as a CT or PET-CT. 

Depending on the type and stage of cancer, we will often schedule the patient to see both a radiation oncologist and a surgeon.  At that point, the medical oncologist will meet or communicate with each of the other specialists that will be involved in the patient's care and they will collaboratively develop a patient-specific treatment plan.

Pre-Treatment Planning

After the initial consultation and diagnosis and in the event you may need chemotherapy, the care team will explain how the treatment will progress and what to expect along the way.  This includes having access to a financial counselor who will explain the costs associated with cancer care.  In the event of having out-of-pocket expenses, the financial counselor (or other persons offering financial education information), will help the patient and their family secure funding that may be available, regardless of your income level.  Additionally, our support staff will explain the services of various support groups and cancer related programs.

Treatment

The nursing staff will explain the chemotherapy protocol that the patient will undergo with them and their family, as well as review any potential side-effects and important things to remember.  Treatment will take place at facility who can best support the patient and their needs throughout the course of their treatment. They will also review important dietary tips and answer any questions.  Patients will have the opportunity to get to know the physician and nursing staff very well.

Post-Treatment Care and On-going Support

During and after cancer treatment, several follow up appointments may be needed so that the doctor and care team can continue to asses the patient's progress and recovery. The medical oncologist is like a ‘family practice’ physician for all things cancer related including addressing treatment questions, side-effects and long-term follow-up care.  They also help patients coordinate appointments with other doctors such as the radiation oncologist and surgeon and any other appointments that are needed. 

In addition to the support the care team provides, there are national and local support groups available and ready to support those affected by cancer.  Some cancer organizations cater to all cancer types, while others specialize in support and information for individual cancers. See Cancer Resources for more information.