It’s common knowledge that the medical professionals you deal with during life-changing cancer treatment can have a massive impact on you – what is less talked about is the impact that cancer patients have on their doctors. We learn more in this Q&,A with Dr Owen Nosworthy, an oncologist at Wits University Donald Gordon Medical Centre in Johannesburg.
Q: What is an oncologist?
Dr Nosworthy: “An oncologist is a doctor who treats cancer. An oncologist has been trained to use either chemotherapy or radiation therapy in order to treat cancer. They work closely with other specialists like surgeons, pathologists and radiologists to be able to treat the cancer as effectively as possible.”
Q: What is involved in your day-to-day job?
Dr Nosworthy: “On an average day I consult with patients in my practice. It is usually a mix between existing patients who are receiving chemotherapy and new patients who have just been diagnosed and are requiring treatment. I also see patients in the hospital who have been admitted for many different reasons.”
Q: What made you decide to pursue this career?
Dr Nosworthy: “During my training as a doctor I was exposed to cancer treatment and grew to appreciate and enjoy the speciality. It is also an extremely dynamic and technically-advanced field that is constantly changing and advancing.”
Q: How does treating patients affect you?
Dr Nosworthy: “Treating cancer patients definitely leaves a lasting impression on oncologists. Treating cancer patients is an extremely rewarding profession. Although it can also be very sad due to the fact that many of our patients with advanced cancer die, it is still very rewarding to be able to make a difference in their and their families’ lives. We also build lasting relationships with our patients because we see them much more frequently than many other doctors see their patients.”
Q: What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of your job?
Dr Nosworthy: “The most challenging part is most definitely losing patients who have battled cancer and who have become almost friends in some respect. The most rewarding aspect is definitely seeing people successfully battle and survive cancer.”
Q: How has being an oncologist changed you as a person?
Dr Nosworthy: “It has profoundly affected me and has given me an appreciation of how precious life can be. It can also be extremely emotionally draining for us as oncologists but ultimately extremely rewarding.”
Q: As an oncologist, what advice would you give to friends and families of those battling cancer?
Dr Nosworthy: “Being diagnosed with cancer is a devastating thing and it is always extremely important to have the support of your friends and family. It can also be a very emotional journey so it is important for loved ones to seek counselling for themselves so that they don’t project their fears onto the patient who is actually dealing with the cancer.”
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