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The Skills Needed to Become an Oncologist

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Oncologists are advanced physicians who typically diagnose, manage and treat patients with cancer. Many oncologists specialize in specific cancer areas, such as pediatric oncology, gynecology oncology, lymphoma or melanoma. They often deal with complex subject matters on a daily basis, so they need more than just medical training to be successful at their profession. If you are considering becoming an oncologist, consider the specific skill sets and personal qualities that are required.

Diagnostic Skills

Oncologists must be able to effectively determine which particular type of cancer their patients have, as well as which phase the cancer is in. Many forms of cancer are life-threatening, so being able to diagnose them correctly is an integral part of the job. According to A Health Career, successful oncologists are able to diagnosis a patient’s cancer type and phase by looking at his overall physical symptoms and utilizing diagnostic tests. After the root of the cancer is determined, the oncologist usually advises the patient on treatment options, as well as their risks and benefits.

Research Skills

Cancer research is constantly evolving, so oncologists must stay on top of current research and studies to be effective in their positions. According to Job Profiles, this type of research often involves attending medical conferences, reading industry journals and reports, and going to annual training workshops to stay informed on the most recent cancer treatments and methods. This often involves traveling and working outside of traditional office hours. It also requires a tenacious personality when it comes to reading and learning and an open mind about non-traditional methods of healing or treatment.

Medical and Surgical Procedure Skills

Surgical oncologists regularly perform tumor-removal procedures and biopsies. Other types of oncologists use chemotherapy or radiation treatments to fight off cancer and alleviate painful symptoms. Most oncologists must be knowledgeable and well-rounded in several types of cancer treatments to practice treatment methods, which are sometimes combined, for their patients.

Interpersonal Skills

Cancer patients and their loved ones experience one of the most emotionally vulnerable times of their lives when they are diagnosed with cancer. Oncologists must exhibit compassion and empathy when breaking the bad news to them. At the same time, the successful oncologist must remain emotionally detached from the situation to be effective as a medical expert. These types of physicians must be able to give their patients hope for recovery, but not mislead them at the same time.


Denise Brandenberg has more than 15 years professional experience as a marketing copywriter, with a focus in public relations. She also worked as a recruiter for many years and is a certified resume writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English.

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