What is a Gynecologic Oncologist?
Gynecologic oncologists are specialists in the area of female reproductive cancers. After medical school, they spend another 4 years obtaining their specialist degree and qualify as an Obstetrician and Gyanecologist. After that they spend a further 3-4 years sub-specialising in gynae cancers. They are trained in all the treatments for gynae cancers - surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
What can a gynae-onc do that other doctors can't?
Gynaecologic oncologists do not only perform surgery on the female reproductive system, but on all the organs of the pelvic and abdominal tissues and organs which may be involved if cancer has spread. Most importantly, they are extensively trained in the vital techniques of surgical staging and cyto-reductive surgery (also called "debulking"). These procedures can ultimately be a matter of life and death. In some cases, accurate surgical staging does not take place because the patient does not see a gynaecologic oncologist and is ill informed. They are only referred to gynaecologic oncologist after surgery and this usually alters the outcome.
Even when other O&G specialists perform surgical staging procedures, they are less likely to do it as accurately as a gynae oncologist. My trainers used to tell me - "it's not about the money, it's about doing what is right especially when it involves cancer or suspicion of cancer".
Finding the exact stage of the cancer is vital to planning the best treatment. In the case of surgery, gynae oncologists simply do a better job of finding and removing tumours that have spread in the pelvic and abdominal areas.