Overview of Medical Oncology
Medical oncologists are physicians who have specialised in the assessment and management of patients with cancer. They are trained to use systemic drugs in the treatment of cancer, and to administer these therapies to patients who either have localised or metastatic malignancy in need of systemic therapy or whose cancer has potentially been cured by surgery but for whom further adjuvant systemic therapy improves their outlook. The role of the medical oncologist is to discuss the treatment options with patients, supervise the therapy and manage any complications of disease and/or treatment that may arise. All such patient management is done in consultation with other clinicians within the context of multidisciplinary meetings and clinical networks.
Some people are confused about the distinction between clinical and medical oncologists. They are the two main medical specialities that actively manage patients with non-haematological malignancy. They often work in partnership, and both give systemic therapy to patients, but only the clinical oncologists administer radiotherapy. However, this simple definition by exclusion hides a number of other differences in work-pattern, approach and focus, which this document clarifies.