So What’s the Difference?

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Radiologist to radiation oncologist to medical oncologist

Often times we hear the names of specialty physicians in conversations and it can become very confusing. Without understanding the differences between all the different “ologist’s,” their titles are often misunderstood and when used inappropriately can really change the context of the conversation. So, here is the 101 on cancer doctors.

Radiologist: A radiologist is a medical doctor that specializes in diagnosing and treating diseases using medical imaging equipment, such as X-rays, CT scans, MRI, Ultrasound and PET scans. Radiologists are often used in the work-up and diagnosis of cancer. When a radiologist sees something unusual, often times a surgery or biopsy will follow to make a definitive diagnosis of cancer.

Radiation Oncologist: Often times confused with the radiologist, the radiation oncologist is a medical doctor that specializes in the treatment of cancer and some non-cancerous tumors using radiation. The radiation oncologist uses specialized machines called linear accelerators or brachytherapy units to produce radiation used to treat and destroy cancer cells.

Medical Oncologist: This medical doctor specializes in treating cancer and some non-cancerous conditions using chemotherapy, hormone therapy and biological therapy. In many cases, the medical oncologist and radiation oncologist work closely together to provide combined cancer treatments.

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