At Kymera Cancer Treatment Centers, we understand that a cancer diagnosis affects all aspects of your life including family, home, and career. With three convenient locations in SENM, our patients gain the comfort and security of being able to stay home, continue to work and be with their family during treatment.
Our board-certified Hematologists and Oncologists provide trusted up-to-date cancer care utilizing evidenced-based treatments which have been shown to improve patient outcomes. Kymera accommodates patients in a timely fashion, facilitating second opinions and coordinating care with nationally recognized cancer facilities.
What is an Oncologist?
Oncology is a medical branch which specializes in tumors and cancer. An oncologist practices oncology. The word itself means in the literal sense, “the study of tumors.” Hence, an oncologist treats cancer.
There are three major areas to the field of oncology: Medical, surgical, and radiation. Each area focuses on a differing aspect of cancer treatment.
- Medical oncologists treat cancer using chemotherapies or other medication regimens including immunotherapy and targeted therapy.
- Surgical oncologists use surgery to remove tumors and affected tissues; a surgical oncologist will also perform certain biopsies for diagnosis.
- Radiation oncologists are responsible for the use of radiation therapy in treating certain cancers.
Additional subcategories of oncologists include gynecologic, pediatric, and hematologist-oncologist. The latter diagnoses and treats cancers of the blood including leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma.
What Does Medical Oncology Mean?
To say “medical oncology” is redundant. Oncology is a branch of medicine and as such, is medical. Medical oncology…oncology…same thing.
What Conditions/Diseases Does an Oncologist Treat?
Oncologists treat cancer, but many specialize in certain types of cancers. For instance, Kymera Oncologists are all Hematology-Oncologists and Medical Oncologists, meaning they treat any cancer but are also specially trained to treat cancers of the blood.
Do Oncologists Only Treat Cancer?
Yes, though the role of the Oncologist includes explaining the diagnosis and stage, helping patients understand treatment options, and helping them manage the symptoms of their cancer as well as any side effects of treatment.
The Oncologist will be part of a treatment team. Other common members of the treatment team include a pathologist, diagnostic radiologist, an oncology nurse, possibly a social worker, and more depending on the needs of the patient.
How Does an Oncologist Diagnose Cancer?
Oncologists use an array of tests and procedures to determine the type of cancer, the cancer stage, and treatment options. Some of the tests and procedures which may be used include:
- Barium enema
- Bone marrow aspiration & biopsy
- Breast MRI
- Complete Blood Count
- Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Positron Emission Tomography/Computed Tomography (PET/CT)
- Tumor Marker Tests
- Upper Endoscopy
- Bone Scan
- EKG and Echocardiogram
- Fecal Occult Blood Tests
- Pap Test (Smear)
What is the Best Test to Detect Cancer?
Currently, there is no single “best” test for detecting cancer in a patient. That is something which researchers around the world are striving for, but at present, the best tool is the oncologist.
During the interview with your doctor, he will ask many questions and examine you. The goal is to first, determine what is causing whatever problem which brought you there and isolate the general location if not entirely known. Testing will play a role in this.
If a mass is located and believed to be the cause of the symptoms, it will have to be learned whether it is cancerous or benign. If cancerous, additional testing may be needed to learn the size, how advanced, and the precise location of the cancer.
Thus, no one test is best – the tests chosen are determined by the symptoms.
What are Early Warning Signs of Cancer?
There are several early warning signs or symptoms of cancer regardless of the type and location, though certain cancers will likely manifest additional symptoms. The most common symptoms include:
- Sores which will not heal
- Unusual discharges or bleeding
- Nagging cough
- Difficulty swallowing or chronic indigestion
- Thick lumps (may be large or small, but will always seem dense to the touch)
- Changes in bladder or bowel
Although these symptoms may not be a sign of cancer, if many are present there is still cause for concern. Note too that pain is not in this list. That is because the pain associated with cancer is generally not an early symptom.
Can Cancer be Cured Completely?
Just one generation ago, speaking of a cure for cancer seemed like science fiction. Today, many believe a cure is right around the corner. For instance, in January 2019 a team of researchers in Israel declared they will have the cure for cancer by the end of the year. True or not, it demonstrates the new truth of cancer – that it is not the automatic death warrant it was just a decade ago.
At the same time, nearly everyone knows someone who seems to have beaten cancer. Doctors told them they were in remission…ten years ago. Even some life insurance companies will now underwrite someone who has been cancer-free for five years.
So…Can cancer be cured completely?
Although some physicians are leaning towards saying “cure,” most prefer the term “in remission.” This is because there is no way to know if cancer will return and statistically if a person has had cancer once, the odds of recurrence are very high.
That said, there ARE certain cancers which are more prone to long-term remission, which is about as close to a “cure” as possible. These include:
- Prostate Cancer – About 99% are still living five years after diagnosis
- Thyroid Cancer – About 98% still living in five years
- Testicular Cancer – About 95% still living in five years (73% for late stage)
- Melanoma (Skin) Cancer – 91% survival beyond five years
- Breast Cancer – If caught in the early stage, 99% survive beyond five years
Of course, it should be noted that these are not guarantees and much depends on the stage and spread of the cancer. If the cancer has spread to nodes or other parts of the body, it is advanced and the possibility of it entering remission is much lower.
Still, there is cause to be hopeful for new treatments and early detection tests are being diligently researched globally.
What is the Difference Between an Oncologist and a Hematologist?
An Oncologist treats cancer whereas a Hematologist treats diseases of the blood. Such blood-related disorders and diseases may not be cancer; it could be hemophilia, sickle-cell anemia, or something else.
Hematologists, however, also treat lymphoma and leukemia…cancers which are present in the bloodstream. To learn more about the role of Kymera Hematologists, click here.