Cancer does not discriminate. It affects men and women from all races, backgrounds and ages, including children. Thanks to modern-day research and the work of pediatric oncologists, children with cancer have a fighting chance to beat the disease. While men still hold a majority of pediatric oncologist positions, women have gained ground in the field. In 2012, U.S. News and World Report and Castle Connolly Medical created a list of the top pediatric oncologists, as nominated by fellow doctors. They found that 35 percent of the top 353 pediatric oncologists in the United States were women.
The education path of a pediatric oncologist starts with a four-year bachelor's degree in pre-med, biology or a related field, followed by four years of medical school. After completing med school, students enter into a pediatric residency and earn board certification in pediatrics. Doctors then typically complete a three-year fellowship in oncology/hematology, after which they can earn certification from the American Board of Pediatrics' subboard for pediatric hematology/oncology. Maintaining certification requires retesting every 10 years and fulfilling self-assessments every five years. Along with certification, a pediatric oncologist must be licensed by the state where she will practice.
A pediatric oncologist's main job duty is caring for children with cancer in a hospital or medical center. An oncologist orders test results, analyzes a patient's symptoms and comes up with a diagnosis. After determining the type and severity of the cancer, the oncologist develops a treatment plan that may include medication, surgery, and procedures such as radiation and chemotherapy. Because cancer treatments can affect other parts of the patient's bodies, especially the immune system, the oncologist coordinates with other doctors to treat or manage the side effects.
Academics and Research
While many pediatric oncologists work in private practices, hospitals and medical centers, even more work in academia, according to the Council of Pediatric Subspecialties. Numerous pediatric oncologists use their knowledge and education to teach other potential doctors. Pediatric oncologists teach at medical colleges, universities and teaching hospitals. Pediatric oncologists may also perform clinical and research duties, working with clinical trials for new drugs and procedures and developing cancer treatments. Even an oncologist in a private practice may take part in some teaching activities at medical conferences and or while supervising medical residents and students.
According to the Council of Pediatric Subspecialties, a pediatric oncologist's salary falls in the mid-range of pediatric subspecialties. Those in a private practice tend to earn more than those in academics or research. As of 2012, the average salary for pediatric oncologists was $277,134 a year, according to the 2012 American Medical Group Association Physician Compensation Survey, published by Cejka Search. Pediatric oncologists work long hours, often more than the typical 40 hours a week.
- U.S. News and World Reports: Top Pediatric Hematologist-Oncologists
- American Society of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology: Certification
- Council of Pediatric Subspecialties: Hematology/Oncology
- Cejka Search: 2012 American Medical Group Association Physician Compensation Survey
- University of Kansas Medical Center: Pediatric Oncologist
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images