Medical oncology is the specialist assessment and management of patients with cancer. It shares many similarities to Clinical oncology and the two specialties work very closely, with both specialties actively managing patients with non-haematological malignancy as well as both giving systemic therapy to patients. However, there are differences in the work-pattern, approach and focus alongside Clinical Oncologists being the only one of the two specialties to be able to administer radiotherapy.
An integral part of Medical Oncology is active involvement in clinical trials research. This links to the history of Medical Oncology, where the specialty began as research orientated. Nevertheless, large development within technology, procedures and therapies over the last 20 years has led to incredible advancements in the medical management of cancer, especially with the development of orthodox therapies for the common solid tumour. This specialty is fast evolving and medical oncologists have the responsibility to make sure that state of the art therapies, that produce the intended result for common cancers, are nationally delivered.
Medical oncologists must also be trained in working as part of a multidisciplinary team as they more frequently see patients at the outset of their disease for the consideration of adjuvant and preoperative therapies. They must be able to gain the skills required for delivering specialist medical therapy as well as give advice regarding multiple aspects of treatment. This includes surgery in addition to radiotherapy.
The patients, which trainees will often be working with will have an advanced and life-threatening disease where maximising their quality life is an essential priority. This is done through good focus of care and symptom management as well as careful consideration for the patients psychological, social and spiritual needs. Due to the sensitive nature, medical oncologists will need strong interpersonal skills when interacting with patients along with patients’ families. There are also close relationships with the specialty teams in Palliative Medicine as well as other specialty palliative care units, due to the nature of the illness within these patients.
Training in medical oncology is across all tumour types however many consultants sub-specialise. The specialty is predominantly out-patient based and takes 4 years of specialty training. However, clinical oncology takes an extra year, making it a 5-year training programme.
The curriculum for medical oncology has been updated in recent years. To view the most recent curriculum from 2017 please visit the JRCPTB.
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