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What are the Different Oncology Careers?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Oncology refers to the study and medical treatment of cancer. There are many different types of oncology careers available for qualified, educated professionals, such as physicians, surgeons, nurses, radiation therapists, and clinical laboratory scientists. Most oncology careers are found in hospitals, though some professionals work in cancer research institutions, universities, and private practices.

Many doctors, physicians, and surgeons specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and related maladies. Licensed oncologists have extensive educational and clinical experience in the field, and frequently specialize in a certain aspect of direct care. Some doctors evaluate and diagnose new cancer patients, while others provide ongoing checkups and consultations for individuals living with cancer. Radiation oncologists use linear accelerators to directly treat patients, and surgeons remove tumors and suspicious cysts from patients' bodies.

Oncology nurses specialize in providing direct care, counseling, and case management services to cancer patients. An oncology nurse may dispense medication and care for patients in a hospital, clinic, or in a home health care setting. Nurses often educate patients and their families about their specific conditions and discuss different treatment options.

Specialists in radiation treatment centers and medical laboratories provide many essential services for cancer patients. Radiation therapists set up equipment, monitor treatment sessions, and ensure the safety of patients. Medical laboratory technicians collect tissue samples from patients to identify cancerous cells, analyze the composition of such cells, and correspond with doctors to determine the most appropriate treatment plans.

There are several types of oncology careers available outside of medical hospitals. Some counselors and psychologists work exclusively with cancer patients and their families, helping them work through difficult and stressful times. Physical and occupational therapists may help recovering individuals regain strength after treatment and maintain independent lifestyles. Many veterinarians and veterinary technicians specialize in providing oncology-related services for domestic pets and farm animals. Other oncology careers can be found with pharmaceutical companies and private research facilities.

Oncology experts with advanced degrees often assume professorships at colleges and universities. Many professors give classroom lectures on a variety of different topics related to oncology. Some college professors supervise students in laboratory and clinical settings, providing instruction on different research and practical techniques to future oncology doctors and nurses.

New laboratory findings, technological developments in medical equipment, and the prevalence of alternative treatment procedures are consistently creating new jobs for professionals in all oncology careers. Doctors and nurses are needed to help an increasing number of new cancer patients. Oncology researchers are in especially high demand, as their work brings the world closer to an eventual cure for cancer.

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Discussion Comments

By julies — On Sep 18, 2012

I was glad to see the mention of veterinarians in this article and the care they offer for our pets that have been diagnosed with cancer.

For me, my pets are part of my family and when my vet told me that my dog had a fast growing kind of cancer I was devastated. What really comforted me more than anything was knowing he had been through this with his own pets.

I always had confidence in his care and treatment plan for my dog, but knowing he understood what I was going through emotionally really helped as well.

By myharley — On Sep 18, 2012

I have a lot of respect for the nurses and doctors who work at the hospice centers. Many of the patients at a hospice center are dying from cancer and the care that my friends and family have received from them has been outstanding.

This may be considered more end of life care than anything else, but the cancer has affected the lives of the patients and their families for many months or even years. I don't think it ever gets any easier no matter what stage you are in.

When someone first hears they have cancer, your whole life changes and takes on new meaning. The people you meet after that who are involved in your oncology care can make such a difference in how you deal with the diagnosis and ongoing treatment you will receive.

By John57 — On Sep 17, 2012

@Mykol-- I agree that it takes a special person to work with oncology patients every day. After we lost a young cousin to cancer, my daughter always wanted to pursue a pediatric oncology career. Today she works as an oncology pediatric nurse and there are days that can be really heart breaking.

I am very thankful for the people who work in this field and are able to do so with a lot of caring and compassion. It seems as if the number of cancer cases are on the rise, and I seem to hear of more young people with cancer than ever before. I can see why there is such a demand for oncology careers.

By Mykol — On Sep 17, 2012

One of my good friends works at the hospital as an oncology nurse. She has worked in this area for many years and feels like she provides services not only for the patient, but for their families as well.

I think it takes a very special person to pursue a career in the oncology field. There are many success stories, but there are also many sad endings that would be hard to deal with emotionally all the time.

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