News from Illinois CancerCare

How Does an Oncologist Stay Cutting Edge?

When you or a loved one are diagnosed with cancer, you want to know that you’ll receive the most innovative and effective treatment. Just a few decades ago, the latest information remained relevant for quite awhile, but today is completely different. Now, the oncology landscape is changing much more quickly—and mountains of data are available at our fingertips.

Compounding the advances in oncology expertise and access to massive amounts of research, we’re also seeing new trends in cancer. For example, there has been a sharp increase in the number of Generation Xers and Millennials being diagnosed with colon cancer. This intensifies the need for research to understand why trends like this are emerging.

So, how can you know if your oncologist is on the cutting edge of cancer treatment?

1.    They don’t have all the answers. That sounds counterintuitive, but a wise physician realizes that there are times when they need to do extra research or collaborate with a trusted colleague. You don’t want a doctor who thinks there’s nothing left to learn.

2.    They’re well-published and are recognized as leaders among their peers. Physicians who learn a lot, share a lot. They’re sought after as presenters and have extensive knowledge that other doctors can use with their patients. Many cutting-edge doctors are professors at medical schools, further stimulating their need to learn and grow alongside their medical students. Many of our Illinois CancerCare physicians teach in the community and are well published in national journals such as JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association and ASCO’s (American Society of Clinical Oncology) publications.

3.    They’re actively involved in professional associations. Groups like the American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO) provide access to research, training and other resources. Participating in symposiums further increases exposure to cutting-edge treatments and innovative leaders. Illinois CancerCare physicians are active in many national organizations and regularly attend annual conferences to stay up on the newest research.

4.    They’re heavily involved in research. They have a thirst for knowledge and a desire to find newer, better options for improving their patients’ lives. This doesn’t mean they’re chasing whims, but instead are leading the way in discovering new ways of treating symptoms or addressing the underlying disease. Oncologists who receive multiple research grants and are lead investigator for numerous clinical trials are often on the cusp of new therapies. Illinois CancerCare is dedicated to research and pride ourselves on keeping up with the most trends.

5.    They’re good listeners. In addition to being able to treat you more effectively, wise doctors are aware that their current patients may reveal nuggets of information that could spark an idea for new treatment options.

6.    They sub-specialize. For common cancers like breast, lung and colon, oncologists can take a deep dive into current information and conduct additional research to learn even more. For less common cancers, cutting-edge physicians collaborate with knowledgeable colleagues who have complementary expertise. Every physician at Illinois CancerCare sub-specializes. This allows them to share their knowledge and ensures patients are provided with the most cutting-edge treatment.

7.    They’re part of a strong team. Because knowledge is exploding at an unprecedented rate, they rely on colleagues, nurses and other professionals to synthesize data into the content they need to focus on the most. This maximizes the oncologist’s time and increases their knowledge base.

8.    They’re excited about emerging medical treatments. Today’s advancements are leading to exciting discoveries in personalized cancer care, such as molecularly targeted therapy (based on your unique cancer cells’ mutations) and immunotherapy (helping your body fight cancer cells more effectively). Even if your oncologist doesn’t feel that personalized treatment is the right choice for you, it’s important that they know when it is an appropriate option.

9.    They consume technology efficiently. Innovative oncologists use technology to their advantage, without letting it bog them down. Using sites like PubMed and Medscape can provide them with quick access to the latest information—24/7.

Many oncologists chose this specialty because they’re fueled by the challenge of using their knowledge and skills to heal those who need it most. YOU are their inspiration. YOU are their reason.