Medical Oncology

What Is Medical Oncology?

Medical Oncology

Oncology in the simplest words can be described as the branch of study that deals in the field of cancer. The person who studies oncology is referred to as an oncologist or cancer specialist. Now when we come to the question, ‘what is medical oncology?’. It can be stated as the treatment program of cancer that includes certain drugs, methods, and agents that travel in the entire body of the person who is diagnosed with cancer. These drugs, methods, or agents help in destroying cancer cells and they help the body to defend itself as well. And thus, it is the main objective of both medical oncology and hematology. Medical oncology is one of the major cancer treatment modalities that use systemic treatment approaches. These approaches could be:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Target Therapy
  • Hormonal Therapy

All these approaches are used to manage cancer more precisely and effectively.

Molecular or Targeted Therapy :

Targeted therapy is directed to a signaling pathway or a specific target that makes use of certain drugs for blocking the spread and growth of the cancer. This is done by interfering with division and growth of a cancer cell in various ways and at different points during the spread, development and growth of cancer. This therapy offers an effective treatment for cancer without damaging healthy tissues and focusing more on cellular and molecular changes that are specific to cancer.

What is Hematology?

The specialty of pathology, internal medicine, pediatrics, physiology, clinical laboratory that is primarily concerned with the study of blood diseases, blood and blood-forming organs is known as hematology. It also involves the study of etiology along with prevention, prognosis, treatment and diagnosis of blood diseases. Following tools are used for managing the blood diseases –

  • Stem cell transplant and bone marrow transplant
  • Removal and addition of blood components as required
  • Cheotherapy
  • Immunosuppressive drugs
  • Biological therapy for malignant and benign blood disorders
  • Growth factor drugs
  • Serum LH
  • Serum PRL
  • Serum TSH

Common Conditions of Blood Diseases

  • Thrombocytopenia
  • Anemia
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Leukemias
  • Primary Amyloidosis
  • Immune Cytopenias
  • Porphyria
  • Clotting and bleeding disorders
  • Myeloproliferative disorders
  • Hematologic Malignancies
  • Myelofibrosis with Myeloid Metaplasia
  • Immune Cytopenias
  • Monoclonal Gammopathies of Undetermined Significance
  • Enlarged Lymph Nodes or Spleen
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes
  • Lymphoproliferative disorders
  • Hypercoagulable States and Platelet Disorders

What is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a medical approach that is used to treat cancer. In this medical approach, powerful drugs are used to find and destroy the cancer cells in the patient’s body. It simply stops or slows the growth rate of the cancer-causing cells that undergo abnormal cell division and growth hence, causing cancer. One major setback of chemotherapy is that it can also destroy those cells that are not cancer-causing or considered healthy cells. These cells are mostly found in the lining of the mouth and intestine and hair follicles. Because of this, patients might go through some side effects. These side effects can be categorized as mild to moderate. Whereas, in some cases, these side effects can be severe as well. To counter their effect, the medical experts or the oncologists will prescribe certain medications or drugs.

Chemotherapy is categorized into two subcategories. These are as follows;

  • Neoadjuvant chemotherapy: Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is a type of chemotherapy that is given to the person who is diagnosed with cancer and it is given before their primary course of treatment. The main objective of using this therapy is to shrink the tumors with the help of drugs before moving to the other course of treatment.
  • Adjuvant chemotherapy: Adjuvant chemotherapy is another type of chemotherapy that is used after surgery or radiation therapy. It is used to eliminate the chances of recurrence and thus results in better outcomes.

One of the major roles of chemotherapy is that it not only prevents recurrence but also helps in preventing cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.

What is Immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is also known as biological therapy. In this therapy, the approach is centralized on the personalized treatment of the patient. This personalized treatment approach works on one principle and that is stimulating the immunity cells of that particular individual who is diagnosed with cancer. The stimulation of the immunity cells makes them attack the cancer-causing cells. In simple words, we can say that immunotherapy stimulates the body’s natural defense system to fight against cancer-causing cells.

The working mechanism of immunotherapy is very distinctive. It works in multiple aspects such as;

  • Stimulating the immune system of the individual to recognize cancer-causing cells.
  • It triggers the immune cells to kill and eliminate the cancer-causing cells through complex immunological mechanisms.
  • It administers specialized components that enable the immune cell to respond to the cancer cells.

There are different types of personalized approaches that can be used to reprogram the immune system of the cancer patient. The approaches are listed below;

What is Target therapy?

Target therapy is a type of therapy that emphasizes precision. It can be said to be the form of precise cancer treatment in medical oncology. Before performing the targeted therapy, a thorough medical examination needs to be done of the patient that includes a thorough assessment of the tumor microenvironment is performed. The targeted therapy simply targets specific proteins that are responsible for the growth and development of the cancer-causing cell, hence it regulates it and regulates their growth process.

Target therapy works in different steps and they are listed below;

  • The very first step involves the signal blockage. It blocks the chemical signals that are mainly responsible for the growth and multiplication of the cancer cell.
  • The other thing that makes it more precise is that it computes and changes the proteins in cancer cells that results lead to their deaths.
  • The next thing that it does is that it does not allow the production of the new blood vessel. This results in a stoppage in the food cycle of cancer cells.
  • Target therapy can be used to eliminate cancer cells without damaging or harming the healthy cells.

What is Hormone Therapy?

Hormone therapy is a type of oncology therapy that is used for cancer that needs hormones to grow or multiply. These cancers are either called hormone-dependent or hormone-sensitive cancers. Hormone therapy uses certain types of drugs, these drugs block certain hormones or reduce their levels in the body to stop the growth of the cancer-causing cells. Just like other therapies, hormone therapies are combined with other treatment modalities like surgery or radiation therapy.

There are several cancers that can be treated with the help of hormone therapy some of them are listed below:

  • Breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Uterine cancer

Moreover, there are Some examples of hormone therapies, and these are as given below:

  • leuprolide (Lupron)
  • anastrozole (Arimidex)
  • letrozole (Femara)

Drugs for chemotherapy

As we all know, chemotherapy is a type of therapy that may be given before or after surgery. In this therapy, there are certain types of drugs that are used. Oncology drugs are therapeutics used to treat cancer, a group of diseases caused by uncontrolled growth and division of abnormal cells. These drugs can be in the form of injections or the form of pills as well. Some of the chemotherapy drugs that are used enlisted below;

  • Nitrosoureas: These are impeding enzymes that help in repairing DNA.
  • Alkylating agents: These interfere with the development of cancer cells by blocking the replication of DNA and damaging cancer cell DNA.
  • Mitotic inhibitors: These slow cancer cell division which is essential in the reproduction process of the cells.
  • Antimetabolites: These help in blocking the pathways of the enzyme that may be required by the cancer cells to live and grow.
  • Antitumor Antibiotics: They help in blocking some cancer cell changes and enzymes.

Why Do You Need To Have Chemotherapy Drugs?

Chemotherapy can be very beneficial when treating patients that are diagnosed with cancer. Here are some of the reasons that support the notion;

  • The very first and important thing that can be seen in chemotherapy is that it controls and enhances the quality of the life of the patient.
  • Chemotherapy can also be used in terms of those cancers that react well to the process of chemotherapy.
  • Chemotherapy reduces the division of cancer cells if they are given in a high dosage.
  • With the help of chemotherapy, the size of the tumor can also be reduced because of that. And this results in safer surgery for the removal of that tumor from the patient’s body.

What Are Side Effects Of Oncology Treatment?

To counter the side effects of oncology drugs, sometimes your doctor will prescribe you a prescription of drugs that can reduce its side effects. Some of the drugs that are used to reduce the side effects are given below;

  • pain medications
  • anti-nausea medications
  • Medications that treat low white blood cell counts (neutropenia) and prevent infections, such as pegfilgrastim (Neulasta) or filgrastim (Neupogen)

What Are the Benefits And Risks Of Oncology Drugs?

The benefits of oncology drugs vary from person to person. And it depends upon the type of cancer as well. These drugs might help an individual significantly. There are certain beneficial features of these drugs and they are listed below;

  • They can cure cancer.
  • They also shrink the tumor so it can be removed easily.
  • They improve the overall outcomes of the treatment program.
  • They are responsible for the slower growth rate of cancer-causing cells.
  • They help in preventing the spread of cancer into the other parts of the body.
  • They also help to destroy the cancer cells that somehow remain left after surgery or radiation.

So, we have talked about the benefits of oncology drugs, we also need to showcase the side effects that a person can face. Chemotherapy sometimes might attack healthy cells of the body as well. These cells can be blood cells, skin, hair, and cells lining the intestine. Apart from these some common side effects that can be seen are as follows;

  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Dizziness
  • Mouth sores
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Low white blood cells result in low immunity.

Apart from chemotherapy, targeted therapy or immunotherapy is considered to be safer than an option. Because they only attack the cells that are not good as well as not healthy cells of the body. Though the risk factor is there, one should always keep this thought in their mind. What will be the side effects of the drugs? There are common symptoms that can be seen as side effects and they are as follows:

  • Rash
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Reaction to the infusion
  • Gastrointestinal side effects, such as diarrhea, constipation, nausea, or loss of appetite

Alternative options for cancer treatment

Apart from these drug intakes, certain options can be opted for if anyone wants to treat cancer.

These alternative options often include;

Surgery: Surgery is often performed to remove the tumor or lymph node to stop the spread of cancer.

Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy is another alternative that can be used to treat cancer. This high-energy beam is used to destroy cancer cells.

Stem Cell Transplant: Stem cell transplant is another available alternative option. It is beneficial for people with blood-related cancers, such as leukemia or lymphoma.


Chemotherapy is a medical approach that is used to treat cancer. In this medical approach, powerful drugs are used to find and destroy the cancer cells in the patient’s body.

With the advancement in medical sciences, you can easily work while having chemotherapy but it is advisable to have proper rest in terms of survival.

Both of the methods have their own significance, if medical experts or doctors prescribe the usage of target therapy then people need to use that method.

If we consider the cost for the treatment of cancer, at the national level, on an average total cancer care expenditure was around Rs 1,16,218.

A type of chemotherapy that is given to the person who is diagnosed with cancer and it is given before their primary course of treatment.

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