What is cancer and oncology?

Cancer is a disease that occurs when cells in the body grow in an abnormal, uncontrolled way. There are over 100 different types of cancer. Icon Cancer Centre treats the full breadth of cancers and blood disorders, providing care for patients every step of the way.

There are many different ways that doctors treat cancer. The type of cancer treatment you receive will depend on the kind of cancer you have, if it has spread, your current fitness and general health, as well as your treatment preferences. Your doctor will personalise your treatment plan specific to your needs.

Understanding cancer

The human body is made up of billions of cells, which in a healthy body are usually turning over slowly, in an organised way. Cancer is the term we use for a disease that occurs when these cells grow in an abnormal and uncontrolled way.


Cancer may affect blood cells, causing blood cancers such as leukaemia. These blood cancers cause normal blood cell production to be reduced due to the uncontrolled growth of the abnormal (malignant) cells in the bone marrow.

Over time, the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells usually becomes too much for the body to cope with, or will spread to a part of the body that is essential for life.

What is oncology?

Oncology is the branch of medicine that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment and research of cancer. This includes medical or paediatric oncology, radiation oncology, haematological oncology and surgical oncology.

What is an oncologist?

An oncologist is a doctor that specialises in treating cancer. Oncologists care for patients from diagnosis through to treatment and beyond as a part of a multidisciplinary team. While some oncologists specialise in certain types of cancer (for example, gynaecological oncologists), others treat a wide range of different cancer types. Oncologists also conduct research into cancer to improve our understanding of the disease and its treatment.

Types of oncologists

There are four main types of oncologists:

Surgical oncologists

doctors who specialise in removing cancerous tissue through surgery


doctors who specialise in treating cancers affecting the blood (e.g. leukaemia) or blood forming organs such as the bone marrow

Radiation oncologists

doctors who specialise in treating cancer using radiation therapy

Medical or paediatric oncologists

doctors who specialise in diagnosing and treating cancer (in adults or children) with the use of chemotherapy drugs, immunotherapy and hormone therapies

Cancer treatments

Cancer may be treated by surgery, radiation therapy, or drug therapy. Cancer drug therapy includes chemotherapy, endocrine therapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy. These modalities may be administered either on their own, or in various combinations. For example, chemotherapy is frequently combined with targeted therapy.

For further information on cancer treatments offered at Icon, click here.

Oncology at Icon Cancer Centre

Icon’s team of experienced oncologists understand how to support you and your loved ones with compassion, knowledge and hope. Our cancer care centres are dedicated specifically to the treatment of cancer including haematology, radiation oncology and medical oncology.

Icon is committed to delivering clinical trials and research programs to our patients and proudly offers Singapore’s only private clinical trials program in oncology research. Clinical trials specific to your cancer type can be found here.

Resources to help you navigate cancer diagnosis and treatment

If you, a friend or family member have been diagnosed with cancer, it can be very overwhelming to find the information you need or remember all the details. We encourage you to look through the resources on our website, which can help you take the next step during this difficult time and gain a better understanding of cancer. Click here to access the Cancer Information Library.

Support Services

A list of credible support agencies to help you through all stages of your cancer journey.
Learn More

Families and Carers

Helpful information on finding the right support when caring for a loved one with cancer.
Learn More

Cancer Information Library

Resources to help you learn more about cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Learn More