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Oncology Frequently Asked Questions

What is an oncologist?

An oncologist is a highly-trained doctor who specializes in cancer diagnosis and treatment. Oncologists also help you devise treatment plans for cancer by using reports that detail your cancer’s type, development, the likelihood of spreading, and areas of the body affected.

With most cancers more effectively treated by using a variety of therapies, you may see several kinds of oncologists throughout your cancer treatment.

What conditions does an oncologist treat?

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Oncologists treat many different types of cancer and provide medical counsel to people who’ve been diagnosed with cancer. In addition to creating a plan to treat your cancer, your oncologist will also help with managing any side effects of your treatment.

What procedures does an oncologist perform?

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There are several procedures oncologists perform. Depending on your needs, your oncologist may recommend a plan that involves a combination of treatments and procedures, including:

When should I go to an oncologist?

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Your first line of defense is to visit your primary care physician (PCP). If your PCP suspects that you have cancer, or if signs of cancer are revealed in tests or imaging, they will refer you to an oncologist for diagnosis and treatment.

The signs and symptoms of cancer vary from person to person and depend on the type of cancer you may have, so it’s best to keep an eye out for some common symptoms, including:

  • A cough or hoarse throat that doesn’t improve or go away
  • A high fever that lasts more than 3 days
  • Fatigue that doesn’t get better with rest
  • Pain that lasts for days and doesn’t go away or improve with treatment
  • The presence of blood in your stool or urine
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unusual changes in your skin’s appearance, either in color or texture

Because the symptoms of cancer are so varied, check out these additional resources:

What can I expect during my first oncology appointment?

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Though it can be overwhelming to learn you have cancer, your oncologist will be a resource that helps you feel more confident about your treatment. During your first appointment, your oncologist will start with a thorough examination and may order blood work or imaging tests. They’ll also ask you questions to get to know you and review your health history before formulating a treatment plan that makes sense to you.

You can also expect your oncologist to answer any questions you may have about your treatment plan or any recommended procedures. They’ll explain your best course of action, how effective the treatments are, and any potential side effects you may experience.

What questions should I ask my oncologist?

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It’s perfectly normal to have several questions going into a visit with your oncologist. Because we want you to get the most out of your appointment, we’ve created a list of questions for you to ask.

Use the following as a starting point for any other questions or concerns you may have:

  • What are we hoping to learn from these tests?
  • Is this the best treatment for me?
  • What are the side effects of this medicine?
  • How successful has this treatment been for other patients?
  • When can I return to work or other normal life activities?
  • Do you recommend any lifestyle changes that can help with my recovery?