Monday, November 28, 2011

About Clinical Oncology by Kathryn Dawson

Oncology is a very large field and consequently it is broken down into further specialist areas. An oncologist may be a specialist in the area of surgical cancer treatment, a clinical oncologist on the other hand involves the non-surgical aspect of oncology for the treatment of cancer. Oncology specialises in diagnosing and treating all different types of cancer. As well as the treatment of cancer, oncology includes a large amount of research into the cause of the condition, with scientists looking for ways to understand why it occurs, what can be done to prevent it and how it can be treated more successfully. The strides made in oncology over the past 50 years has been tremendous with valuable breakthroughs being made. Even patients suffering from rare forms of cancer have much greater survival rates than they ever have before bringing new hope to all cancer sufferers. Clinical trials are an important part of oncology and are carried out every day as scientists and physicians work together to battle the illness.

The field of oncology is split into several further specialities that doctors and physicians can choose to specialise in once graduating from medical school. The clinical side of oncology is one of these more specialist fields that covers therapeutic administration of ionising radiation (radiotherapy) and cytotoxic chemotherapy. A clinical oncologist is an important member of the multi-disciplinary team treating a patient suffering with cancer. Others members of the team would include a surgeon, a palliative care physician, a pathologist, nurses, a radiologist and a hematologist. A medical oncologist would be also be included, another specialist area within the large field of oncology. Diagnosis of cancer is often made after the patient has undergone some form of body image processing or scanning. This helps physicians see if cancer cells or tumors exist. Imaging systems are very important to doctors and scientists working in oncology as it provides a clear picture of the body and makes diagnosis and treatment easier.

Radiotherapy is a form of cancer treatment that aims to stop cancerous cells from multiplying and shrink a tumor to stop the illness spreading. Radiotherapy is one of the most successful methods of treating cancer and has worked with many patients to rid the body of the cancer altogether. Many patients undergoing radiotherapy will have already had surgery or a biopsy to remove a tumor, the radiotherapy is to kill any remaining traces of cancerous or abnormal cells whilst sparing the normal surrounding cells. There are a few different types of radiotherapy - one of the most common works by administering ionising radiation via an external beam (teletherapy) to the affected area of the body.

Sometimes a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy will be used. The type of treatment given will depend on the individual and their medical history. The treatment itself is painless however with both radiotheraphy and chemotherapy (or a combination of both) there can be severe side effects such as nausea, rashes and hair loss.

Cytotoxic chemotherapy works in a similar way to radiotherapy. It too works to slow cancer growth and stop the disease spreading around the body by preventing cells from growing normally and killing them off. Instead of being administered via a beam of external radiation however it is administered via chemicals that are either injected into the body or taken orally. Because the chemotherapy cannot tell the difference between cancer cells and normal cells, it can also kill off other fast growing cells such as hair cells which is why it is common for the hair of patients to fall out.

Oncology is a very important medical discipline. Fortunately there have been considerable breakthroughs made in the study and treatment of cancer and technology has progressed so diagnosis and treatment are easier than ever before. Clinical oncology in particular has undergone great leaps over the years, with medical image processing and medical imaging systems becoming a key tool in making an accurate diagnosis. By helping to catch the illness earlier, more can done to treat the patient and save their life.