A team of oncologists usually works together to treat cancer patients.

An oncologist is a doctor who specializes in treating cancer.

Because cancer treatment often involves a combination of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation, people with cancer are usually treated by a team of oncologists.

This team can include medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists.

Types of Oncologists

Surgical oncologists specialize in performing biopsies, in which tissue is removed to be tested for cancer.

They also perform surgery to remove cancerous tumors and surrounding tissue.

Radiation oncologists specialize in treating cancer with radiation.

Gynecologic oncologists focus on gynecologic cancers such as cervical and uterine cancer.

Pediatric oncologists specialize in treating children with cancer.

Hematologist-oncologists specialize in cancers of the blood such as leukemia and lymphoma.

Together, a team of oncologists guides a patient through all phases of treatment by doing the following:

  • Explaining the diagnosis and stage of cancer
  • Discussing treatment options
  • Recommending an appropriate course of treatment
  • Providing optimal care
  • Improving quality of life by providing pain and symptom management

Oncologist Training and Education

Oncologists must receive a bachelor's degree, then complete four years of medical school to become a doctor of medicine (MD) or doctor of osteopathy (DO).

After graduating from medical school, they must complete postgraduate medical education though internships and a residency program in internal medicine, which is typically another three years of paid work under supervision.

Then for two to three additional years, they are broadly trained in all areas of oncology.

Some oncologists go on to study a specific type of cancer, such as breast cancer, lung cancer, or prostate cancer, or leukemia or lymphoma.

All medical doctors in the United States are required to be licensed in all states.

This means they must graduate from an accredited medical school and pass several stages of the United States Medical Licensing Examination.

Where Do Oncologists Work?

The Bureaus of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the most common places oncologists work include:

  • Doctors' offices
  • General medical and surgical hospitals
  • Federal agencies (National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, etc.)
  • Colleges, universities, and professional schools
  • Outpatient care centers

The BLS also estimates that in 2014, the average yearly salary for oncologists was $189,760.

Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

  • How To Find a Doctor or Treatment Facility If You Have Cancer; National Cancer Institute.
  • Medical Oncology; American College of Physicians.
  • What is an oncologist?; Pancreatic Cancer Action.
  • Types of Oncologists; Cancer.net.


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