Medical specialties and sub-specialties

Specialists with a primary medical interest in cancer are called oncologists. They are broadly trained in all aspects of oncology, specialising in one of three main disciplines:

  • surgical oncology – cancer surgery
  • radiation oncology – radiation therapy
  • medical oncology – chemotherapy/hormone therapy

Oncology specialists often sub-specialise in organ groups or regions (eg. colorectal, gynaecologic, head and neck) or in specific types of cancer (eg. breast, lung, leukaemia).

To become a specialist in Australia, a medical practitioner must first gain general registration. This requires a primary medical degree and completion of a minimum 12 month internship in a hospital. This is followed by additional basic and advanced training in the chosen specialty:

  • surgical training takes a minimum of six years and is offered in nine surgical specialties. Successful individuals are awarded Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS).
  • radiation oncology takes a minimum of five years. Successful candidates are awarded Fellowship of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (FRANZCR).
  • medical oncology takes six years of specialist training, supervised jointly by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) and the Medical Oncology Group of Australia (MOG). Medical oncologists are awarded Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (FRACP).