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Types of Cancer Doctors: Career Overview by Specialization

Jan 16, 2020

Several specializations are available to those who want to work as oncologists, or cancer doctors. Learn about four of those specializations - medical, pediatric, radiation and gynecologic oncology - in this lesson.

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  • 0:06 Essential Information
  • 1:28 Medical Oncologist
  • 2:04 Pediatric Oncologist
  • 2:31 Radiation Oncologist
  • 3:04 Gynecological Oncologist

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Career Titles Medical Oncologist Pediatric Oncologist Radiation Oncologist Gynecologic Oncologist
Required Education M.D. M.D. M.D. M.D.
Other Requirements Residency and fellowship Residency and fellowship Residency and fellowship Residency and fellowship
Licensure and Certification Licensure required in all states; certification from the American Board of Internal Medicine recommended Licensure required in all states; certification from the American Board of Pediatrics recommended Licensure required in all states; certification from the American Board of Radiology recommended Licensure required in all states; certification from the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommended
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 7% for all physicians and surgeons 7% for all physicians and surgeons 7% for all physicians and surgeons 7% for all physicians and surgeons
Median Salary (2019)** 263,870 for all oncologists $263,870 for all oncologists $334,486 for radiation oncologists $263,870 for all oncologists

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Essential Information

Cancer doctors, otherwise known as oncologists, diagnose and treat cancer patients. They also might research the causes of, treatments for and prevention of cancer. After undergoing four years of medical school, oncologists complete residencies that can last 2-6 years. To specialize, they must then pursue a fellowship in a particular area of oncology, followed by earning board certification. Additionally, all oncologists must be licensed. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that job opportunities for all physicians and surgeons, including oncologists, would grow by 7% from 2018 to 2028. This was faster than the average for all occupations. Payscale.com reported that, as of January 2020, oncologists, in general, earned a median annual salary of $263,870. This figure was significantly higher for radiation oncologists, who earned a median of $334,486 per year, as of January 2020.

Specialized cancer doctors might focus on treating cancer within a certain population, such as pediatric or geriatric patients, or treating a certain type of cancer. Let's look at four types of specialized cancer doctors in further detail.

Medical Oncologist

Considered a subspecialty of internal medicine, medical oncology covers the treatment of all types of cancerous tumors. Medical oncologists provide care for hospitalized patients, as well as outpatients. They use a variety of treatments for cancer, such as chemotherapy, analgesics and gene therapy. They also assist patients in choosing treatment options and monitor their recovery. Some medical oncologists participate in cancer research and train students and residents in hospital settings. The American Board of Internal Medicine offers board certification in the specialty area of medical oncology.

Pediatric Oncologist

Pediatric oncologists specialize in cancers that affect children. Cancer doctors who care for children are knowledgeable about managing childhood cancers through the use of chemotherapy, radiation and other treatments. They must be particularly aware of how certain treatments can affect a growing person. Pediatric oncologists may become board certified in pediatric hematology-oncology through the American Board of Pediatrics.

Radiation Oncologist

Many cancers and certain non-cancerous conditions get treated with radiation therapy. Radiation oncologists determine whether radiation is appropriate for a patient and, if so, they manage the side effects that may result from radiation therapy. In addition to training in general oncology, they may explore the treatment of a number of kinds of tumors, such as lymphoma and tumors of the head and neck, breast, gastrointestinal tract and thorax. The American Board of Radiology administers board certification in radiation oncology.

Gynecologic Oncologist

Specialists in cancers of the female reproductive system, gynecologic oncologists, treat cancers of the uterus, ovaries, endometrium, cervix, fallopian tubes, vagina and vulva. Gynecologic oncologists can use chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but they're also skilled at cancer surgery, including reconstructive surgery following tumor removal. Through the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, board-certified obstetrician-gynecologists can acquire additional certification in the subspecialty of gynecologic oncology.

In summary, medical, pediatric, radiation and gynecologic oncology are some of the specializations available to cancer doctors. These professionals have a faster-than-average job outlook along with excellent earning potential.

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