Is a Career in Oncology the right choice for You?

Some medical students decide what kind of doctors they want to become well before they start applying to medical schools. Some do it as interns, while doing their clinical rotations. Some influenced by passionate mentors, follow the footsteps of their favorite professors and some make the decision after chance encounter with cases that touch them strongly. But there are some, for whom this crucial decision can be a confusing one. If you are at such a standpoint and find yourself wondering about oncology, read on to make an informed decision if it could be your thing for the rest of your medical career.

Factors to consider before taking up Oncology as a medical profession


#Factor 1: Oncologists need to have nerves of steel
You may choose oncology because you want to make a difference in people's lives. Maybe you have one of those kind and generous hearts that cannot remain oblivious to human suffering. But you also have to assess, if you have what we commonly refer to as, 'nerves of steel.' If the thought of attending to dying people makes you sick in the stomach, repeated failures get you panic stricken and working closely not only with the very ill, but also their parents, siblings, spouse or children seems like an overwhelming responsibility, then you may give it some more thought, before choosing to specialize in oncology.

#Factor 2: Are you ready for challenges at all times?
Oncology may prove to be the right path for you if you enjoy a good challenge. After decades of combatting the disease with chemotherapy, a lot of oncologists feel there is hardly any chemotherapy combination that has not been tried yet. Targeted therapy, i.e., admininistering drugs that work on specific malignant cells is the new development in the world of cancer cure. But it has few cures to its credit till now and doctors prefer to practise targeted therapy with chemotherapy or combinations of chemotherapy. There is huge potential to study, research and apply various combinations of these two. Unlike some other branches of medicine, oncologists are still to find answers for even some of the very common diagnosis. There is scope of a lot of new discoveries that students who choose oncology will make or be a part of, throughout their careers.

#Factor 3: If you cannot adapt to change then oncology is not for you
It is also important to ask yourself how adaptable to change you are. Are you the kind of person who likes the comfort of regularity or the idea of something new excites you? Because oncology is a field that can and often does witness major changes overnight. Oncologists adopt fast. With next generation sequencing getting cheaper as well as more convenient for bedside use, you can already find oncologists who are making real time decisions about which drugs to prescribe in individual cases, based on tumor mutational status. You can try your hands in a variety of things like research work, translational investigation, clinical trial that tests new drugs or health service researcher to look for ways to improve standard, reduce prices, etc.


#Factor 4: Job Satisfaction matters!
At last we come to the most important factor, i.e., job satisfaction. It will not be an overstatement to say that it is an extremely gratifying thing to be able to make this big a difference in someone’s life. A terminal illness that even in its earliest stage is terrifying to the patient and her family, makes you develop a bond that usually does not happen in any other subspecialty. An oncologist does not only treat the person but goes on to be her closest ally and advisor regarding whatever other treatments she undergoes. To see them frequently, hold their hands through fears and worries, witness how brave some people can be in hopeless moments, is in itself a human privilege.

I will sum it up by saying, throughout a career in oncology, full of challenges as well as its moments of gratification, one needs to remain humane. Sometimes it may seem to make things easier if we distance ourselves emotionally from the patients and their family. But calloused or indifferent behaviour is the last thing a person facing the challenge of cancer deserves. There is a fine line of mental equilibrium that makes one compassionate enough to understand what the patient is going through, tough enough to face the challenges and yet not hardened to a state of obliviousness amidst such suffering. If you think you have it in you, come join this wonderful subspecialization of medicine that touches and changes so many lives.

Written by Betty Simmons for : Health care marketers

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