The term oncology literally means a branch of science that deals with tumors and cancers. The word “onco” means bulk, mass, or tumor while “-logy” means study.
What is Cancer?
Each of the cells of the body have a tightly regulated system that controls their growth, maturity, reproduction and eventual death. Cancer begins when cells in a part of the body start to grow out of control. There are many kinds of cancer, but they all start because of out-of-control growth of abnormal cells.
How Common is Cancer?
Today, millions of people are living with cancer or have had cancer. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. About one-half of all men and one-third of all women in the US will develop cancer during their lifetimes.
Role of an Oncologist
Medical professionals who practice oncology are called Cancer specialists or oncologists. These oncologists have several specific roles. They help in diagnosis of the cancer, help in staging the cancer and grading the aggressive nature of the cancer.
Oncology diagnostic tools
The most important diagnostic tool remains the clinical history of the patient. Common symptoms that point towards cancer include fatigue, weight loss, unexplained anemia, fever of unknown origin etc. Oncology depends on diagnostic tools like biopsy or removal of bits of the tumor tissue and examining it under the microscope. Other diagnostic tools include endoscopy for the gastrointestinal tract, imaging studies like X-rays, CT scanning, MRI scanning, ultrasound and other radiological techniques, Scintigraphy, Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography, Positron emission tomography and nuclear medicine techniques etc. Common methods include blood tests for biological or tumor markers. Rise of these markers in blood may be indicative of the cancer.