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Oncology treatment is medical treatment which is used to address a cancer. Depending on the type of cancer, the stage of the cancer, and the patient's overall condition, there are a number of different things which people can expect from oncology treatment. It is important for patients with cancer to find an oncologist they trust and feel comfortable with, to ensure that they have access to the treatment most suitable for their particular cases.
The first step in oncology treatment is assessment of the patient. This includes medical imaging studies, biopsies, and blood tests to find out where the cancer is and determine the stage, while also examining the patient's general level of health. This information is important in deciding what kind of treatment to pursue. The oncologist will develop a list of treatment recommendations and options to talk over with the patient, and possibly with family members as well.
In a conversation about cancer treatment options, an oncologist should talk about all of the options and possible prognoses, from doing nothing to pursuing the most radical and aggressive treatment options. The oncologist will talk about side effects and the length of treatment, and will also discuss options like enrollment in experimental drug protocols, for patients who are interested.
If a patient feels, given the information presented, that aggressive treatment is worth it to try and beat the cancer, some oncology treatment options can include surgery to remove the cancer, along with chemotherapy and radiation to keep it from coming back. The patient may need to spend some time in the hospital, and will have a lengthy recovery at home which makes care and support from friends, family members, or paid caregivers critical.
Other patients may feel that the cancer has progressed so far that aggressive treatment is not worth it. These patients may feel that the time gained by treatment would not make up for the decline in quality of life caused by treatment. In these cases, an oncologist can work with a patient to develop a more conservative oncology treatment plan. This could include elements such as chemotherapy and radiation, or it could focus on palliative care and making the patient comfortable without actively treating the cancer.
In either case, oncology treatment often involves pain, discomfort, and nausea. Patients may lose interest in activities, food, and friendships, and they can also experience frustration, depression, and other emotional symptoms. No option is easy.
When evaluating oncology treatment options, patients should ask to have all of the options presented, and they should ask about the prognosis, side effects, quality of life, and length of time associated with each treatment. An oncologist may also point a new patient to an existing patient (with consent from the existing patient) so that a patient can talk with someone currently undergoing treatment to learn more about what to expect.