Oncology/ Cancer Treatment

Oncology is a branch of medicine that deals with tumors. A medical professional who practices oncology is an oncologist.The name's etymological origin is the Greek word  (ónkos), meaning "tumor", "volume" or "mass".


Oncology is concerned with:

The diagnosis of any cancer in a person (pathology)

Therapy (e.g. surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other modalities)

Follow-up of cancer patients after successful treatment

Palliative care of patients with terminal malignancies

Ethical questions surrounding cancer care

Screening efforts: of populations, or

 the relatives of patients (in types of cancer that are thought to have a hereditary basis, such as breast cancer)

Depending upon the cancer identified, followup and palliative care will be administered at that time. Certain disorders (such as ALL or AML) will require immediate admission and chemotherapy, while others will be followed up with regular physical examination and blood tests.

Often, surgery is attempted to remove a tumor entirely. This is only feasible when there is some degree of certainty that the tumor can in fact be removed. When it is certain that parts will remain, curative surgery is often impossible, e.g. when there are metastases elsewhere, or when the tumor has invaded a structure that cannot be operated upon without risking the patient's life. Occasionally surgery can improve survival even if not all tumour tissue has been removed; the procedure is referred to as "debulking" (i.e. reducing the overall amount of tumour tissue). Surgery is also used for the palliative treatment of some of cancers, e.g. to relieve biliary obstruction, or to relieve the problems associated with some cerebral tumors. The risks of surgery must be weighed against the benefits.

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are used as a first-line radical therapy in a number of malignancies. They are also used for adjuvant therapy, i.e. when the macroscopic tumor has already been completely removed surgically but there is a reasonable statistical risk that it will recur. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are commonly used for palliation, where disease is clearly incurable: in this situation the aim is to improve the quality of life and to prolong it.Hormone manipulation is well established, particularly in the treatment of breast and prostate cancer.

There is currently a rapid expansion in the use of monoclonal antibody treatments, notably for lymphoma (Rituximab), and breast cancer (Trastuzumab).Vaccine and other immunotherapies are the subject of intensive research.