The job of the oncologist is to diagnose and provide treatment for a variety of diseases characterized by abnormal cell growth, known as cancers. They may also be involved in the prevention and/or early screening of cancer as well as research into new treatments or drugs for cancer prevention.
In order to do their job effectively, oncologists must have a broad base of knowledge as well as a detailed understanding of how each part of the human body works individually and together. In addition, they must be able to communicate confidently with patients about their diagnoses and treatment options.
Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be an oncologist and what it takes to become one yourself.
Oncologist Job Duties
The main duties of an oncologist include the following:
- Conducting exams and tests to identify the presence of cancerous cells in patients
- Preventing the spread of cancer through surgical removal of tumors and performing biopsies of suspicious skin lesions or masses
- Administering radiation therapy to kill cancer cells that have metastasized to other parts of the body
- Educating patients about their condition and treatment options, as well as monitoring their progress during treatment
- Developing a treatment plan for each patient that takes into account the individual needs and goals of the patient
- Ordering laboratory tests to monitor tumor response to treatment over time
- Maintaining up to date knowledge of new developments in medical research and treatments
Oncologist Salary & Outlook
The median annual wage for oncologists is $246,633. The highest earners make over $514,000. Those earning higher wages tend to work in the pharmaceutical industry.
The employment of oncologists is expected to decline over the next decade. This is due to the growing use of new cancer treatments that do not require a physician’s care, such as immunotherapy and targeted drugs.
Oncologist Job Requirements
A qualified oncologist should meet these requirements:
Education: To become a medical oncologist, you’ll need to earn a doctoral degree. This degree allows an individual to work as a physician who treats cancer patients. Courses required for a doctoral program include anatomy, biochemistry, medical ethics, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology, genetics, epidemiology, cell biology, and public health. Some schools have specialties in areas like radiation oncology or pediatric oncology.
Training: Oncologists must perform a residency after earning their M.D. They will typically spend two to four years working at a hospital under the supervision of other oncologists. During this time, they will gain hands-on experience in treating patients with cancer. This position allows them to learn the newest methods of treatment and assess new procedures for future use.
Certifications: Certification isn’t required to become an oncologist, but it can be beneficial. Many organizations offer certification programs for oncologists, like the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Oncologists must also obtain a license from their state in order to practice medicine.
The following skills are required for this job:
Excellent verbal and written communication skills: The ability to communicate with patients, families, and colleagues is crucial.
A strong knowledge of the medical field: A good oncologist must have a thorough understanding of how cancer develops and spreads, as well as an awareness of new treatments.
An ability to analyze complex data: An oncologist needs to be able to evaluate patient histories and laboratory test results to diagnose and treat cancers.
A sense of empathy: Patients who are diagnosed with cancer need someone who can empathize with their fears and concerns.
The ability to multitask: Oncologists typically work in busy hospital settings where they may be responsible for many tasks at once. They must be able to manage several projects simultaneously while maintaining quality control.
Ability to work well under pressure: A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming for both patients and their loved ones, so an oncologist must be able to handle stressful situations calmly.
Oncologist Work Environment
Oncologists work in a variety of settings, such as private practice, hospitals, clinics, and research institutions. He or she may spend time in a laboratory, visiting patients at their homes or offices, speaking to other doctors about his or her cases, or just sitting in front of a computer reviewing reports about treatments that have already been tried and what medications might be most effective for each patient.
Oncology is an exacting specialty that requires a commitment to continued education and lifelong learning. The oncologist’s job is intense and can be stressful, as they help people manage terminal cancer diagnoses.
Oncologist Career Advancement
In order to advance as an oncologist, you’ll have to show commitment to research and to continuing education. There are many specialty areas within oncology, so it’s important to know what you want to focus on. Your career path will be determined by how far you want to go in this field.
Some oncologists specialize in a particular type of cancer, such as blood, breast, or lung cancer. There are also oncologists who focus on a particular age group, from children to the elderly. Some oncologists might choose to perform research that will help future generations, while others choose to help people treat their cancer today.
An oncologist can also advance to a senior oncologist position by gaining more clinical experience and knowledge. This position may involve leading a team of oncologists.
Here are three trends influencing how oncologists work. Oncologists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
Personalized Cancer Treatment
Personalized cancer treatment is an emerging trend that allows oncologists to tailor treatment plans to the unique needs of each patient.
This approach has been shown to be more effective than traditional treatments, particularly for breast cancer patients who are typically at higher risk for the disease’s recurrence.
This approach can also be beneficial for other types of cancer patients, as it helps doctors to understand how factors like age and sex impact outcomes.
Artificial Intelligence to Diagnose Cancer
The use of artificial intelligence for healthcare purposes is becoming more prevalent as technology continues to improve.
Recent developments in artificial intelligence have allowed it to be used for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes, with the former being an area of significant interest for oncologists.
For example, new AI algorithms are being developed that can help analyze complex datasets related to cancer cells in order to find patterns that can predict potential disease outcomes or help identify genetic mutations associated with particular cancers.
The Importance of Genetics and Biomarkers
Over the past few years, there has been a marked increase in the importance of genetics and biomarkers when it comes to determining cancer treatment.
For example, research is currently underway to determine whether specific genes play a role in determining the likelihood that patients will respond positively to specific types of chemotherapy or other treatment.
Biomarkers can also help doctors better understand how different treatments affect individual patients and whether these drugs are likely to work for their unique needs.
How to Become an Oncologist
1. Planning Your Career Path
When choosing your career path, it is important to remember that this type of medicine is emotionally demanding. You will spend your days listening to patients discuss their most difficult experiences, including pain and loss. But it’s also rewarding; oncologists are responsible for helping people who are struggling with life-threatening illnesses.
The ability to communicate clearly and maintain composure under pressure will serve you well in this field. It is also important to have excellent organizational skills since oncologists must keep track of multiple patients at once.
It can take several years to complete training for this position, but if you are passionate about helping others, the time commitment will be worth it.
2. Writing a Resume
The best resumes for oncologists should emphasize their knowledge on the latest methods in cancer treatment and their ability to lead a team of medical professionals to provide effective care for patients. You may also want to highlight research publications, presentations, and other relevant academic achievements. Be sure to include your medical school, residency program, and fellowship training history.
In order to demonstrate your expertise in managing cancer patients, include specific details from each of your past positions regarding the number of patients you have treated and their outcomes. You can also emphasize your skills by describing instances where you had to refer a patient to a specialist, or when you were able to diagnose a rare case. You can include any leadership skills you have demonstrated at past jobs by describing how you worked with other doctors or specialists to achieve positive outcomes for patients.
3. Applying for Jobs
Your medical school can help you learn about programs and internships where you can gain experience in your field of interest. In terms of job hunting, you should aim to be a self-starter and do some networking. Be sure to join medical-related organizations so that you can attend conferences and meetups, which will help you form professional relationships that could potentially lead to job opportunities.
4. Ace the Interview
Oncologists treat cancers and help patients through various stages of treatment. In an interview, you would likely be asked about the experience you have with treating cancer and how education and training have prepared you for this career.
In order to have a successful interview, be prepared to discuss your past experiences working with people from various backgrounds and ages. An interviewer might also ask you how you would handle different patient situations. This is a chance for you to showcase any particular strengths that aren’t necessarily common among doctors.
If you’re looking to get the job, you must tell your interviewer why you think oncology is interesting and why it is where you want to invest your time and energy. Medical school isn’t easy—it requires long hours of hard work and many tests. You must convince your potential employer that your passion for medicine will carry you through any difficult situations.