Orthopedic oncologist physicians specialize in the treatment and diagnosis of benign and malignant tumors in the bones or soft tissues. An orthopedic oncologist attempts to remove tumors and kill tumor cells that could spread through the body. Treatment techniques used by an orthopedic oncologist include coordinating patient care, implementing chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and surgery.
There are times when general orthopedic physicians do surgery on cancer tumors in the bone or soft tissue. What typically happens though is that an orthopedic oncologist is consulted because of his or her specialized expertise. An orthopedic oncologist has the expertise to determine whether the surgery must be done to remove cancer and whether reconstructive surgery must be done to save a limb.
An orthopedic oncologist typically treats a variety of conditions, including benign bone tumors such as chondromyxoid fibroma, chondroblastoma, or osteoid osteoma. Other conditions he can treat include osteochondromas, unicameral bone cysts, fibrous dysplasia, and metaphyseal fibrous defects. The malignant bone tumors he treats include chondrosarcoma, osteosarcoma, and Ewing sarcoma. Additionally, orthopedic oncologists treat soft tissue sarcomas such as liposarcoma, synovial cell sarcoma, and malignant fibrous histiocytoma.
Compared to other medical specialties, there are very few orthopedic oncologists. The training is arduous. Individuals wishing to become orthopedic oncologists have to complete a bachelor's degree and medical school. They are then required to complete orthopedic surgical residences which involve various supervised training experiences combined with coursework.
By the time residency is completed, individuals are able to diagnose and treat a wide variety of traumas or injuries to the bones. After completion of residency, it is necessary to complete an orthopedic oncology fellowship of two typically intense years. During the fellowship, participants have in-depth training in radiation therapy, soft-tissue pathology, bone tumor pathology, and oncology. They also improve their skills in using equipment such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and X-rays to diagnose bone cancers. In addition, they usually carry out a clinical research project during the fellowship.
In addition to residency and fellowship training, trainees must successfully pass the physician licensure exam in whichever locale they plan to practice medicine. They must also pass additional exams to become board certified so they can practice as orthopedic oncologists. Also, during the course of their career, they must regularly take continuing education courses so as to maintain their licensure.