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A Brief Introduction to Medical Oncology

Oncology is a word most of us hear throughout our lives, and it has really changed over the past few years. Today’s blog will briefly review what oncology is and why it’s such an important and rapidly evolving field–and a big part of what we do at Southeastern Med.

According to our own Dr. Elaine Beed, a board-certified oncologist with over 40 years of experience, oncology covers all efforts toward “the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.” That certainly casts a wide net, which is why there are three main divisions of oncology that are generally recognized: medical oncology (focusing on treatments like chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and immunotherapy), surgical oncology (removing tumors through a procedure), and radiation oncology (using targeted radiotherapy). There are also many sub-divisions within these categories, of course, as each type of cancer brings its own unique challenges, each oncologist will also have their own specializations.

One of the important things to know is that recent advances in oncology–from our understanding of cancer cells to the type of precision technology now widely available– have made an enormous impact in the outlook for cancer patients compared from 10 to 20 years ago. That includes patients in less populated areas, as the availability of quality cancer services at facilities like Southeastern Med’s newly opened John W. and Edna McManus Shepard Cancer Center have made it easier to educate the public about cancer risk factors; identify cancerous tumors in earlier stages; and successfully treat cancers before they become life threatening.

“Cancer treatment is hands-on medicine,” says Dr. Beed. “It requires ongoing testing, monitoring and follow-up, so it’s essential that these services are available close by. At Southeastern Med, patients can get all the treatments and tests they need without having to travel too far from home.”

When asked about some of the most exciting innovations she has seen in oncology over the course of her career, Dr. Beed doesn’t mention any specific type of treatment or screening technology; she thinks about the improved personal experiences she witnesses in her patients.

“A lot of the side effects often associated with chemotherapy, such as hair loss and nausea, don’t happen as often or to the extent they would have in the past,” she says. “This leads to a better quality of life for the patient and more positive family time as they recover.”

Even for patients with advanced or terminal forms of cancer, better treatment options have helped them “find more comfort and peace than patients in the past, who would often be bedridden for weeks or months at a time,” Stated Beed.

Dr. Beed knows the Covid-19 pandemic has caused setbacks and concerns among some patients who’ve waited to get screened for potential cancers, as well as for cancer patients who’ve been unsure about getting a Covid vaccination. In both cases, Dr. Beed encourages people to book an appointment. All safety precautions are being taken at Southeastern Med, and vaccinations have proven safe for cancer patients, offering vital protection should they also become infected with Coronavirus. Just the same, cancer screenings are being performed with the latest state-of-the-art technology, helping to make fast, precise diagnoses that are saving lives every day.

Learn more about our new cancer center here.