About cancer

Hospital doctors explained

There are many different kinds of doctor or surgeon involved in diagnosing, treating or caring for cancer patients. The kind of doctor or surgeon will depend on your type of cancer and other needs you may have. The list below explains the role of hospital doctors that may be involved in your care. If you are unsure of their role please ask them to explain.

Grades of doctors

Doctors in each of the specialties below have different grades/titles according to their experience and usually work in teams. The most senior member of the doctors team is a consultant. If you would like to find out more the grading system for doctors, there is more information on the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) website, Who is your doctor?.

Anaesthetists
Anaesthetists give drugs or gases to make you sleep and keep you comfortable during surgery. Some are specialists in pain relief.

Chest physicians
Chest physicians specialise in treating and caring for people with chest or breathing problems including lung cancer. They are also called respiratory physicians or thoracic-medicine physicians.

Clinical haematologists
Clinical haematologists specialise in treating blood and lymphatic disorders including leukaemia and lymphomas (also called haematological cancers).

Clinical oncologists (see also oncologists)
Clinical oncologists specialise in treating patients with radiotherapy and may also use chemotherapy and hormone therapy.

Dermatologists
Dermatologists specialise in treating skin disorders, including skin cancers.

Endocrinologists
Endocrinologists are trained to diagnose and treat hormone imbalances and problems by helping restore the normal balance of hormones in your system. They take care of many conditions, including cancer of the endocrine glands.

Gastroenterologists
Gastroenterologists specialise in diagnosing patients with cancer of the digestive system.

Haematologists
Haematologists specialise in treating blood disorders, including leukaemia and lymphomas.

Medical oncologists (see also oncologists)
Medical oncologists specialise in treating patients with chemotherapy and other medical treatments.

Oncologists
Oncologists specialise in the medical treatment of cancer. A clinical oncologist specialises in treating patients with radiotherapy and may also use chemotherapy and hormone therapy. A medical oncologist specialises in treating patients with chemotherapy.

Paediatric oncologists
Paediatric oncologists specialise in diagnosing and treating children who have cancer.

Palliative medicine doctors
Palliative medicine doctors specialise in treating the symptoms of cancer, both physical and emotional.

Pathologists
Pathologists specialise in examining tissues and cells under a microscope to decide if they are normal or abnormal.

Physicians
Physicians is the general name for medical doctors. There are many different kinds of physician, such as chest physicians and dermatologists. They are involved in investigating symptoms and doing tests which may confirm cancer. They may also provide some of the treatment and care for particular cancers.

Radiologists
Radiologists are exerts in examining images of the body using x-rays and body scans for example perform operations and other surgical procedures (including biopsies) to diagnose and treat cancer.

Radiotherapists
Radiotherapists (now usually called clinical oncologists) are doctors who specialise in using radiotherapy to treat cancer.

Surgeons

There are many different kinds of surgeon and they have different areas of expertise. Surgeons specialise in a type of cancer such as breast cancer, or in operating on a particular part of the body. Sometimes several surgeons work together. Some of the surgeons who treat cancer are outlined below.

Breast surgeons
Breast surgeons specialise in diagnosing and operating on breast cancer.

Colorectal surgeons
Colorectal surgeons specialise in diagnosing and operating on cancers of the colon rectum and bowel.

ENT surgeons
ENT surgeons specialise in cancers of the head neck and throat.

Gynaecologists and gynaecological surgical oncologists
These are surgeons who specialise in diagnosing and operating on gynaecological or women’s cancers.

Neurosurgeons
Neurosurgeons specialise in operating on the brain and central nervous system.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons
These are surgeons who specialise in cancer of the mouth, tongue and so on.

Orthopaedic surgeons
Orthopaedic surgeons specialise in cancers of the bone and connective tissue.

Plastic surgeons
Plastic surgeons (sometimes called cosmetic surgeons) specialise in reconstructive surgery to rebuild part of the body removed by surgery or damaged by cancer.

Thoracic surgeons and cardiothoracic surgeons
These are surgeons who specialise in operating on the lungs and chest.

Urologists or urological surgeons
These are surgeons who specialise in diagnosing and treating urological cancers such as prostate, bladder and kidney cancers.