Oncologists are specialist doctors who focus on the non-surgical management of cancer. Generally, Oncologists are either trained in Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy or Both methods of cancer treatment.
In Singapore’s context, internal medicine physicians who wish to pursue a career in medical oncology continue with on-the-job specialist training to become ‘medical oncology’ specialists who focus on using chemotherapy to treat cancer patients. They do not provide radiation treatments for their patients. This is why unlike their American board-certified colleagues, medical oncologists from Singapore hold the MRCP qualification just like other internal medicine specialists.
Training for radiotherapy is undertaken via 2 tracks, namely the Australian or the British system. The Australian system focuses only on radiotherapy and after obtaining qualifications and training in radiation oncology, candidates become ‘radiation oncology’ specialists. The British system is a comprehensive qualification in Clinical Oncology called ‘FRCR in Clinical Oncology’ requiring training and competency in both Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy. Upon obtaining the FRCR in Clinical Oncology qualification and satisfying training requirements in Singapore, candidates become ‘radiation oncology’ specialists.
In summary, there are 2 types of Oncology specialists recognized by the Specialist Accreditation Board in Singapore, namely the medical oncologist and the radiation oncologist. The medical oncologist is trained only in chemotherapy and does not provide radiotherapy for their patients. All radiation oncologists are specialists who are at the minimum trained in radiotherapy, while those with the Clinical Oncology qualification are dual trained in chemotherapy as well.
In this era of rapid advancement, a broad-based education coupled with a sub-specialised team approach is the only way cancer patients can receive the most updated treatments for their condition.