What is Clinical Oncology?

4 July 2015

Previously known as Radiotherapy and Oncology

Definition of Clinical Oncologists
Clinical Oncologists are medical specialists skilled in non-surgical forms of cancer treatment, utilising radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radioactive isotopes and other special techniques to treat patients with cancer. In addition to treating those patients who are subsequently cured of their disease, the clinical oncologist is frequently the only physician, together with the family practitioner, to manage the patient through the whole course of his/her cancer.
(Source: The Royal College of Radiologists, 2000)

Role of Clinical Oncologists

Many disciplines are involved in the prevention, early detection, care and treatment of cancer patients. Once patients are diagnosed with cancer, treatment should be given as soon as possible. The country needs many more specialists in this field, especially clinical oncologists. Clinical oncologists have a tremendous role to play in the improving the standards of care patients with cancer, as most cancer patients will require radiotherapy and / or chemotherapy at some stage of their illness. This is a very challenging area but the rewards will be satisfying. Not only is cure possible in a growing proportion of cancer patients, but the capability of improving the comfort of patients with distressing symptoms is itself very essential.

What is entailed in the treatment of Cancer?

Cancer patients may be treated by any of the following, or a combination of:


  • Surgery
  • Radiotherapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormonal therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Palliative care

Conventional chemotherapy is given at the above oncology centers and in general hospitals, district hospitals and private centers. Adult hematological malignancies are treated in general hospitals by haematologists and physicians with special interest in haematological diseases.

Pediatric oncology treatment (which includes the management of solid tumors and haematological malignancies) is provided in University of Malaya Medical Centre and the Paediatric Institute, Hospital Kuala Lumpur. Follow-up or maintenance treatment is given at various general hospitals in the country, especially by pediatricians with a special interest in pediatric oncology.

When feasible, Joint Cancer Clinics are organized with other disciplines, for example with surgeons and gynaecologists. Close teamwork between the surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, pathologists and other relevant disciplines improves the quality of cancer treatment for individual patients as well as encourages the healthy development of management policies.

Efforts at improving palliative care services throughout the country are being actively undertaken by both governmental and non-governmental agencies.

For the 2003 Directory of Haematological, Pathology and Palliative Care Services in Malaysia, click here

While efforts have been made in upgrading and updating the machines and facilities used in cancer care, the main concern in the immediate future is the training of many more oncologists and supporting staff (physicists, therapy radiographers, oncology-trained pharmacists and oncology-trained nurses).

The number of specialists needs to be increased in order to cope with the burden of cancer in the country. The country has only 36 clinical oncologists (specialists in radiotherapy and oncology to date in 2004) who have undergone training for radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy. Many more oncologists, oncology nurses, medical physicists, therapy radiographers and other support staff are needed.