Ambassador and Oncologist Karine Tawagi shares her top ten reasons for choosing Oncology as her specialty.
I am currently a third-year Hematology/Oncology, and often get asked why I picked this specialty. There are many reasons, but here are a few that stand out:
- Grateful patients & long-term patient connections/relationships. We often get to follow a patient and their families for years, and chat with them not about their cancer but about their latest bowling scores, gardening projects, new grandchildren…
- Having the privilege to help patients navigate difficult decisions, including end of life decisions can be very rewarding, especially making sure that the end of life looks the way patients and their families envisioned it. Enrolling a patient in hospice does not mean giving up, it just means focusing on a new form of treatment so that a patient can feel the best to spend time with friends and family for whatever length of time they may have left if they are no longer able to receive therapy, or if they do not wish to pursue more treatment.
- Possibility of a cure or long-term remission, or the gratification of helping someone feel better, even if cure is not an option. We work closely with our multidisciplinary teams in palliative care, nutrition, psychology among others, to make sure we can minimize any symptoms that a patient may have.
- Research opportunities including enrolling patients in clinical trials to change the future landscape of cancer treatment. In an academic position, this includes meeting with biopharmaceutical companies, designing trials, enrolling patients in trials and writing publications describing these findings.
- Outcomes for cancer patients changing dramatically at a rapid pace especially with the advent of immunotherapy and targeted treatments (e.g. stage IV lung cancer patients are now sometimes living >5 years, instead of <1 year as it was just over 10 years ago)
- Even the bread and butter can be stimulating. Cancer care is complex, and we always must consider all the patient’s comorbidities. Depending on the type of practice, we also get to treat non-cancer diagnoses, such as anemia, venous thromboembolism, thrombocytopenia…
- Both inpatient and outpatient roles. Most of the care happens in the outpatient cancer clinic, however we still get to see patients in the hospital if they are admitted for complications from their cancer treatment, a new cancer diagnosis, bone marrow transplantations, and other hematologic issues.
- We get to do some procedures including bone marrow biopsies, and intrathecal chemotherapy
- A multidisciplinary approach - getting to engage with our surgery, radiation, radiology, medicine subspecialty colleagues on a daily basis. Every week, we have tumor boards with all these subspecialties for a variety of cancer types, and it often requires a discussion from all parties to decide on how best to diagnose and treat a patient’s cancer.
- Still needing to stay up to date in internal medicine, lots of overlap, e.g. thinking about a patient's diabetes when starting steroids, managing depression, pain...
For more information, be sure to contact her @themdkitchen.