CHC – The Cancer & Hematology Centers

What Is Medical Oncology? Understanding How It Treats Cancer

nurse and patient in IV infusion area

If you or someone you love has recently been diagnosed with cancer, you may be wondering what medical oncology is and how it works. Learn about the basics of this cancer treatment practice, plus how our experts in Michigan can help you understand your options.

What Is Medical Oncology?

Medical oncology is the practice of using medicine to study, treat, and prevent cancer. Medical oncologists use medicinal treatments like chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and clinical trials to treat cancer.

This branch of oncology is one of a few different areas doctors use to treat cancer. Other branches of oncology include radiation oncology, surgical oncology, and behavioral oncology. Doctors can use all these practices together to help treat your cancer.

What Does A Medical Oncologist Do?

There are several things your medical oncologist does to help you find the best treatment option for your cancer. At a glance, these are just some of the things your medical oncologist will do for you.

Diagnoses Cancer

There are dozens and dozens of different types of cancer that can affect the body. In fact, some organs can develop potentially hundreds of different types of cancer, depending on how the cancer cells grow, their shape, and where they are in the organ.

Your medical oncologist will ask you to go through multiple different tests. This helps them determine which type of cancer you have and the best way to treat it. Some of the tests your medical oncologist might recommend for you include:

  • Ultrasounds
  • X-rays
  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • Blood tests
  • Biopsies

Recommends Treatments

Once your medical oncologist has reviewed the results of your tests, they will recommend the cancer treatment options they think are best for you. Depending on your exact situation, they may recommend treatment services outside the cancer center where they operate, or they may refer you to another department in The CHC.

Everyone’s cancer requires different treatments, so the options your medical oncologist recommends may not be the same as they would for another person, no matter how similar your situation may seem.

Administers Certain Treatments

Your medical oncologist may give you some of the treatments they recommend for your cancer themselves, depending on your cancer and what they recommend. In most cases, your medical oncologist and their team will give you the following treatments themselves instead of coordinating care with other physicians:

Refers Other Resources

Your cancer diagnosis is only one part of who you are and what your life is like. Your medical oncologist understands. That’s why our medical oncologists will also refer you to different resources at The CHC and beyond to make sure you can focus your efforts on the path to recovery.

At a glance, your medical oncologist may also connect you with other professionals, including:

  • Patient care coordinators: Your patient care coordinator will help you understand everything you need to know about the treatments your medical oncologist recommends, help you schedule appointments, and support you in understanding treatments and side effects.
  • Physician or medical assistants: These professionals work with your oncologist to administer your cancer treatment.
  • Financial coordinators: Navigating health insurance is challenging enough without dealing with cancer at the same time. Your medical oncologist and patient care coordinator may connect you with financial coordinators to help you with these challenges.
  • Social workers: Oncology social workers help connect cancer patients and their families with resources that can help them find peace of mind and allow them to continue living as normal of a life as possible while navigating cancer treatment.
  • Behavioral oncology: It’s easy for those who haven’t experienced cancer to forget that there are far more than just medical side effects. Your medical oncologist may refer you to a behavioral oncology expert to help you take care of your mental health and stay connected with your family through any number of cancer-related psychological challenges.

What to Ask Medical Oncologists Near You

Thinking of every question you need to ask when meeting your medical oncologist for the first time can be tricky. Here are some of the questions we recommend asking at a glance during your first meeting.

1. How Far Along Is My Cancer?

When your oncologist describes the “stage” of your cancer, they’re referring to how early or advanced your cancer is in spreading. This will help both of you understand which treatment options may be best for you and help you find the best healthcare plan to treat your cancer.

2. Which Cancer Treatment Options Do You Recommend?

Your oncologist may recommend different types of treatment depending on your exact situation. For example, some types of breast cancer respond well to immunotherapy, while others do not.

3. How Often Will I Need Treatments?

Some cancer treatment plans require more doses of medication or sessions than others. For example, some types of cancer only require one round of radiation therapy. However, some may take six sessions or more over several months. Your medical oncologist will help you understand how often you need treatments, when you’ll need to take them, and how many you’ll need for your cancer to respond to them.

4. What Side Effects Can I Expect?

Many cancer medicines and treatments come with side effects, ranging from fatigue and loss of appetite to hair loss and mouth sores. Your medical oncologist can help you prepare for these side effects so they are more manageable throughout your treatment.

5. How Can You Help Me with My Treatment Goals?

Your cancer may be something your oncology team can remove altogether, or they could be able to stop it from growing more than it already has. This largely depends on the type of cancer you have and where it’s located. By asking this, you and your medical oncologist can determine treatment goals you can achieve with the help of your cancer care team.

6. Who Else Can I Expect to Work with During Treatment?

During your first meeting with your medical oncologist, they will also likely introduce you to the other members of your cancer care team, including your patient care coordinator and their resources.

Find Cancer Treatment Near You

Your path to cancer treatment is not a journey you have to take by yourself. At The CHC, our medical oncologists are experts in helping you treat any type of cancer you may have and allowing you to get back to your best life. To learn more about medical oncology and your treatment options, call 800-411-7999 today.