Surgical oncologists are doctors that specialize in the surgical treatment of cancers and other malignant diseases. While the duties of a surgical oncologist will overlap with those of a general surgeon, surgical oncologists have additional specialty training in cancer management and in removing tumors and malignant tissues.
Surgical oncology is a small but growing field. Currently, there are only 14 programs in the U.S. that accept no more than 30 students a year to train surgical oncologists.
Students who want to become surgical oncologists must attend medical school and graduate with a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). After completing medical school, doctors on the surgical oncology track will complete a 3-5 year residency in general surgery. Doctors who want to work with children will complete a residency program in pediatric surgery.
Surgical oncology is a specialty medicine, requiring a specialized fellowship program after general surgery. To work in this field doctors will complete a 2-3 year fellowship training program in surgical oncology.
Surgical oncologists can subspecialize in many different fields of oncology including:
- Gynecological oncology
- Radiation oncology
- Surgical oncology (discussed here)
To practice medicine in any state, doctors need to acquire a medical license. Medical licenses are awarded on a state-by-state basis, so requirements for the license will vary. Obtaining a medical license allows doctors to practice any type of medicine, but does not define any area of specialty.
Doctors demonstrate competence in one area of medicine by earning board certification. Surgical oncologists require board certification from two different boards: one from the American Board of Surgery in either general surgery or pediatric surgery, and one from the American Board of Internal Medicine in surgical oncology.
Board certifications require lengthy written and oral examinations along with many professional and educational requirements. To maintain board certified, doctors are required to complete continuing education classes, maintain professional standing, and eventually retake the qualifying exams.
Where Surgical Oncologists Work
Surgical oncologists often work in hospitals or cancer clinics to treat patients. They work with a variety of other doctors as part of a care team, including medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, nurses, and primary care physicians. Surgical oncologists can also work in clinical settings and enroll patients in clinical trials, or surgical oncologists can work in education.
The average salary of a medical oncologist is $300,000 per year.
How They Help People
Surgical oncologists consult with patients to help achieve a curative plan for cancer. Surgical oncologists will work with other health care professionals on the patient's care team. These doctors specialize in treating cancers like breast cancer, melanoma, sarcomas, esophagus cancer, and also liver, pancreas and rectal cancer.
Surgical oncology is a relatively new field of medicine. General surgeons used to perform all surgical treatments for cancer patients. While general surgeons still perform many oncology surgeries, surgical oncologists have more specialty training and take on many of the most complicated cases. Unlike general surgeons, surgical oncologists understand the broad picture of how cancer affects patients and how it progresses, and also have a more nuanced understanding of how and when to provide surgical intervention.
Surgical oncologists will provide oncology therapies, involve patients in clinical trials, and will provide rehabilitative and social services. They will also consult with other medical professionals about biopsy techniques, imaging test guidance, and the possible role of surgical intervention.
The type of surgery performed by these doctors depends on the nature of the cancer and the stage and location of the tumor. Surgical techniques will also depend on the heath of the patient and the risks and benefits of certain procedures.
Surgical oncologists also provide post-operative care to their patients and monitor the surgical site to make sure the cancer was entirely removed and there is no recurring growth.
Medical Negligence and Surgical Oncologists
Many doctors work to treat cancer patients and the role of the surgical oncologist is to decide when surgical intervention is necessary, and will perform the surgery according to medical standards to the best of their ability. The most common malpractice claims against surgical oncologists involve injurious surgical errors and failing to remove the entire tumor, allowing cancer to spread and re-grow.
Other common surgical errors include:
- Injuring surrounding anatomy
- Damaging a nerve
- Anesthesia errors
- Using faulty surgical equipment
Malpractice under surgical oncologists can also occur when doctors misinterpret test results or take patients down inefficient treatment paths.
Oncology is a constantly developing field, and in order to offer patients the best possible care, surgical oncologists should constantly work to improve their knowledge base and to understand and even contribute to new advances. To maintain board certification these doctors are required to complete a certain amount of continuing education credits. When doctors fail to update their knowledge base, patients that could benefit from new treatments are left in the dark.
Surgical oncologists work with many other health care professionals to help treat a patient. These doctors need to provide clear communication about the patient's heath, new test results, and results or findings of the surgery. The patient's care team can only be effective when all members work together. Small communication errors can lead to big health consequences.
Experienced Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorneys
If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered a negligent injury while under the care of a surgical oncologist, you need to talk to an experienced malpractice attorney. The legal side of medical malpractice cases can be very complicated, but an experienced attorney will know how to evaluate your case and get the compensation you deserve.
Call Gilman & Bedigian today to schedule a free consultation and to begin your case. Our attorneys have a record of success in protecting clients across Maryland. Call (800) 529-6162