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Medical Oncologist vs. Radiation Oncologist

Posted in: Articles December 29, 2016 By Stan Gottfredson Read by 62 Users

A medical oncologist, as well as a radiation oncologist, coordinates the treatment regimen of a patient diagnosed with cancer. Neither of them performs the actual medical procedures they specialize in, as the primary task of oncologists is to determine and subsequently organize the most efficient treatment plan for patients. Despite the similarities regarding the two physicians’ work, there are certain differences between the expertise of a medical oncologist and that of a radiation oncologist, such as the type of treatment they focus on.

What Type of Treatment Do Medical Oncologists and Radiation Oncologists Offer?

Although both medical professionals specialize in oncology, the treatment approaches they employ are very different:

  • Medical oncologists coordinate patients’ chemotherapy. Additionally, they may prescribe other medication as well, such as targeted therapy, in addition to chemotherapy in order to increase the treatment’s effectiveness.
  • The treatment plan organized by radiation oncologists involves ionizing radiation. Thus, they determine the most suitable dose of radiation, as well as the most appropriate method of delivery, depending on the size, type and location of the malignant tumor.

Do Medical Oncologists and Radiation Oncologists Have Any Other Responsibilities in the Treatment of Cancer-Diagnosed Patients? 

While a radiation oncologist focuses exclusively on coordinating patients’ radiotherapy, the work of medical oncologists may involve additional aspects:

  • Medical oncologists are often the specialists who lead the entire treatment team, ensuring that the patient’s regimen will also focus on other important aspects such as alleviating their persistent pain and managing the low immunity which typically accompanies cancer.
  • The purpose of a radiation oncologist in the patient’s treatment plan does not generally encompass other matters than coordinating their radiotherapy. They only organize the treatment regimen within their area of expertise.

How Do the Education and Professional Training of a Medical Oncologist Differ from a Radiation Oncologist’s?

Another difference between the two medical experts refers to their education requirements:

  • Following the receiving of their degree, a medical oncologist is required to complete residency, obtain certification, and to subsequently attend a two-year fellowship program. Their area of expertise is relatively wide.
  • A radiation oncologist needs to undergo five-year residency training, as well as become board-certified by The American Board of Radiology. The specialization of a radiation oncologist is solely focused on radiotherapy and its management.

Both the implication of a medical oncologist and the expertise of a radiation oncologist are crucial in the treatment of cancer, since a multi-modal approach has proved to be the most effective in curing the disease, particularly when one is suffering from a rare and aggressive form of cancer such as mesothelioma. By opting for undergoing chemotherapy in conjunction with radiation therapy, as well as with other standard or alternative treatment methods, the prognosis of mesothelioma may significantly improve and the patient’s life expectancy can also extend.