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What is Pediatric Oncology?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Pediatric oncology is a specialty discipline in medicine concerned with diagnosing and treating children, usually up to the age of 18, with cancer. It is thought to be one of the most challenging of specialties because, despite successful treatment of many children, there is a high mortality rate still associated with various types of cancers. Losing pediatric patients can be extraordinarily difficult, as it goes against the normal course of life, and it takes strong-hearted people to work in this vitally necessary area of medicine.

There are many medical professionals who devote themselves to some aspect of this specialty. These could include the many medical technicians that may perform or aid in treatment as prescribed by a pediatric oncologist. Doctors of other specialties may be involved in some of this work including pediatric surgeons and pediatric radiologists. Some nurses also specialize in pediatric oncology nursing, and they will devote their careers to working with kids either suspected of having or who have cancer. Naturally, pediatric oncologists are doctors who are an important part of this medical field, and there may be others like pediatric oncology social workers, child life specialists, or family counselors that take part in the work.

As a whole, the discipline of pediatric oncology concerns itself with diagnosing, treating, and hopefully curing cancer, and this may be done in a variety of ways. Sometimes a surgical method is indicated to removed masses or tumors. Alternately, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or even bone marrow transplant is needed. Various specialists may be involved in the different ways cancer may be addressed and include hematologist-oncologists, anesthesiologists, and radiologists.

Doctors who choose to become pediatric oncologists take a slightly different course in their education, when compared to adult oncologists. After completing medical school, they become pediatricians, and once they are board certified to work as pediatricians, they may choose to further specialize in oncology. It can take extensive study and about 14 years total of school to become a pediatric oncologist.

Though oncology for adults and children are related, there are very different things about the two specialties. Children respond quite differently to treatment, and they are best served medically when not viewed as “short adults.” There are many doctors and other medical workers who spend time doing research to determine the best possible methods of practice on the child when it comes to treating or diagnosing cancer

Another consideration in care is that children very often come attached to families. Part of care has to include involving and educating families. The child will be reliant on caretakers to show up at appointments, remember medications and follow through on any other care instructions.

Many parents report appreciating a holistic approach to the treatment of their children that includes them in decision making and helps them understand how to best care for their kids. Clearly helping parents to suffer less stress and confusion during this difficult time is of benefit to children fighting difficult diseases. Pediatric oncology, while it may concern itself most with eradication of cancerous illness, may also need to reflect on how best to preserve a mentally healthy atmosphere for the child through providing parental support, as possible.

PracticalAdultInsights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a PracticalAdultInsights contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon1002815 — On Feb 22, 2020

anon339375 theyre always looking for a cure for cancer. Sounds like a good decision!

By anon339375 — On Jun 22, 2013

I'm 12 and I almost had cancer. I think that this is what I want to be when I grow up. I am a straight A student, so I hope that I will be able to get into medical school. I absolutely love kids. (even though I basically am one!)

I have a question about this job though if anyone knows the answer. Do they also look to find a cure for cancer in children? Thanks.

By anon335133 — On May 18, 2013

I think I may have found my major in college! I'm reading about it more and more. The more I read about it the more interested I get and the more love I have for it! Thank You so much for sharing this information with me, it really helped me figure out my major for next semester! If anyone has more information on where I can take classes and the best school for pediatric oncologists please do let me know. --Johanna M.

By anon281707 — On Jul 24, 2012

I would take the time to be come a pediatric oncologist. I may be only fourteen but I may have found my dream job. I love kids and the medical field. I have big dreams and a bigger heart.I would first become an OT then a pediatrician, then a pediatric oncologist. God will bring it to me, if it is in my future.

By anon275197 — On Jun 16, 2012

What classes in high school should I be taking to become a pediatric oncologist?

By anon241512 — On Jan 19, 2012

Thanks for this post, it was really informative. I'm going into medicine and I feel that this is where God is leading me to specialize in. Cancer is not something that children should be going through and it would be an honor to help them fight it.

By anon239689 — On Jan 10, 2012

I am thinking of becoming a pediatric oncologist. I have this extreme drive to want to help these kids, as morbid as this specialty may be. I constantly think of it over and over, and feel it's where I belong.

I am currently finishing off my nursing school, and plan to specialize in pediatric nursing while waiting to get into medical school. As soon as I am done with that, I know my road ahead is long and time consuming, and it may take me a little longer to become a pediatric oncologist since I want to be a pediatrician for a while before engaging in this sub specialty. But a some time in my adulthood, I will be there.

By anon185517 — On Jun 12, 2011

I recently have been thinking about being a pediatrician and i would love to work with kids with cancer. I'm 17 and hopefully after next week ill be a CNA (certified nursing assistant) and from there ill be working to get my GNA. Exactly how much schooling is necessary to be a pediatric oncologist?

By anon162935 — On Mar 25, 2011

I am a senior in high school and I would definitely spend 14 years of my life to be a pediatric oncologist.

By anon136505 — On Dec 22, 2010

I am a nurse oncologist for adult people, now i am studying for pediatric oncology to help the future stars for this world.

By anon125846 — On Nov 10, 2010

I've been very interested in pediatric oncology since my mom died when i was seven. I'm now 15 but i still am willing to spend 14 years to do this wonderful job.

By anon112072 — On Sep 19, 2010

I've only just started high school, but I'm looking into being a pediatric oncologist, and have been since junior high. Any tips on what classes I should be taking.

By anon104087 — On Aug 15, 2010

Honestly I think I could get into this field. I have actually been kind of fascinated by cancer since my grandmother died. Right now I am going to school to become an M.A. and I hope to become a nurse in two years. I also applaud those who are in this field. It takes a lot of heart.

By pharmchick78 — On Jul 24, 2010

@gregg1956 -- Well, there are several things to look for.

First, a person choosing a pediatric oncology group would need to look for one that has an oncologist specializing, or at least having some experience with the type of cancer their child has.

Then they should consider the location of the group, and whether they will be able to conveniently make the many trips needed to take their child to the oncologist.

Finally, money concerns can be an issue when choosing a group, so the parent should research the prices and payment options of the group to make sure they are financially compatible.

One of the best ways to find a group is to ask the child's pediatrician, since they will be able to recommend one that suits both the child and the parent.

By gregg1956 — On Jul 24, 2010

What are some good tips for those choosing a pediatric oncology group?

I can only imagine how stressful being in that kind of situation could be, and I can't imagine having to choose a medical group on top of it.

Are there any good tips for doing this?

By Planch — On Jul 24, 2010

That sounds like such a heartbreaking discipline. I think that has got to be one of the most emotionally demanding jobs out there.

I really admire those who can go into it, because I know I could never do anything like that.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a PracticalAdultInsights contributor,...
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