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Medical Oncology: Cancer Care at Memorial Hermann

Memorial Hermann provides comprehensive oncology programs and cancer care, including medical oncology, through education, screening, diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, and rehabilitation.

Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers are accredited by the American College of Surgeons’ (ACoS) Commission on Cancer (CoC). This distinction is presented to programs with cancer services striving to uphold the highest standard of care for their patients. When you elect to receive care from Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers, you can rest easy knowing you’re in good hands.

Our affiliated medical oncologists tailor treatment plans, utilizing one or more of the following:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Biotherapy
  • Stem cell therapy
  • Hormonal therapy
  • Antibody therapy
  • Investigational therapy, such as whole-body hyperthermia
  • Immunotherapy

What is Oncology?

General oncology, which includes medical oncology, is a branch of healthcare dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Throughout the years, cancer research and studies have vastly improved early identification and treatment techniques, allowing you to live longer with an improved quality of life.

Because severity and types of cancer vary widely, the field of oncology is divided into three major areas:  

  • Medical oncology: focuses on treating cancer using chemotherapy or medications, such as targeted therapy and immunotherapy
  • Surgical oncology: involves biopsies to aid in diagnosing cancer, as well as removing tumors and surrounding tissue through surgical means
  • Radiation oncology: specializes in treating cancer using radiation therapy

Within the three main branches of oncology are even more specialized sectors focused on specific types of cancer. Some examples include gynecologic oncology (uterine, ovarian, and cervical cancer), pediatric oncology (cancers found in children, such as osteosarcoma), and hematology-oncology (cancers of the blood, such as leukemia and lymphoma).

What Does a Medical Oncologist Do?

Medical oncologists are physicians who specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and long-term management of cancer. They are often the main healthcare provider for you.

Medical oncologists make important medical judgments throughout the course of your treatment, potentially addressing issues like anemia, infection, pain control, and other complications. These decisions, however, are not made in a vacuum. Medical oncologists often coordinate on treatment plans with other specialists, such as radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, and surgeons, as part of a multidisciplinary team.

While all patients are unique, sometimes cancer diagnoses are complex and warrant further consultation. When this happens, medical oncologists may send their cases to a cancer conference for review. At these conferences, physicians with experience in a wide variety of cancer care specialties use their combined knowledge and expertise to determine an appropriate treatment plan.

What Types of Cancer Treatments Do Medical Oncologists Oversee?

The medical oncologist is one member of an overall oncology team. Working alongside oncology nurses, patient navigators, physician assistants, pathologists, social workers, and more, the team oversees your cancer care, from diagnosis to treatment.

Following are a few treatment options provided by oncology teams at Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers:

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy can be used to cure specific cancers, control tumor growth, relieve symptoms such as pain, shrink tumors before surgery or radiation therapy, and destroy microscopic metastases after tumors are surgically removed.

To combat the side effects of chemotherapy, you receive current therapies, including medicines that can increase blood counts and prevent nausea and vomiting. The use of these therapies, along with new delivery devices, can make chemotherapy easier to tolerate.

Inpatient Chemotherapy Services

Inpatient chemotherapy services are provided in the private hospital rooms. Memorial Hermann oncology nurses are trained on the administration of chemotherapy, and they provide personalized care in a comfortable, caring environment.

Outpatient Chemotherapy Services

Memorial Hermann provides outpatient chemotherapy services at convenient locations across the Greater Houston area close to your home and family. Comfortable treatment areas are staffed by knowledgeable and caring nurses, and we provide private recliner infusion chairs and entertainment materials.

Targeted Therapy

As defined by the National Cancer Institute, targeted cancer therapies use drugs or other types of medicine to target specific molecules necessary for the growth, progression, and spread of cancer cells. Instead of killing tumor cells (and all rapidly dividing normal cells) as chemotherapy does, targeted therapies block the ability of those specific cancer cells to proliferate.

Hormone Therapy

Often given to patients with early stage breast cancer as well as those with metastatic breast cancer, hormone therapy is a form of cancer treatment that removes hormones or blocks their action to stop cancer cells from growing.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a relatively new treatment option designed to stimulate your immune system to fight back against cancer. This targeted biological therapy uses artificially created proteins, called monoclonal antibodies, to bind to cancer cells and destroy unique proteins present in certain types of cancers. Results in immunotherapy have been promising, and this exciting treatment option continues to evolve with more research.

How Do I Find a Medical Oncologist?

A cancer diagnosis can be shocking and confusing. If you or a loved one recently received a diagnosis, you may be struggling with what to do next. A medical oncologist can help you and your family manage your cancer care, from diagnosis to treatment and recovery.

If you’re in the process of selecting an oncologist, the following list of considerations from the American Cancer Society is a good place to start:

  • The oncologist should be board-certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). This means they have taken and passed certification tests approved by doctors in the field.
  • The oncologist should have experience treating your specific type of cancer.
  • Make sure the oncologist, or the hospital he or she is affiliated with, is part of your health plan (sometimes called a “preferred provider”) and/or accepts your health insurance. Contacting your insurer or the hospital directly is a good way to determine if the provider is in-network with your health plan.
  • Choose an oncologist you feel comfortable with. Cancer treatment is a very personal, and you and your loved ones need to remain as stress-free as possible. Don’t be afraid to “shop around” to find a physician who fits your needs.
  • If possible, try to find an oncology program with a multidisciplinary team. This will make the treatment process more seamless.
For more information about Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers, including how to connect with support services or schedule an appointment with an affiliated medical oncologist, call 833-770-7771 or fill out the form below to connect with one of our Oncology Nurse Navigators.