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Radiation Therapist Overview - Preparation - Day In The Life - Earnings -
Employment - Career Path Forecast - Professional Organizations -
Overview PowerPoint - Overview Podcast


Radiation therapy is used to treat cancer in the human body. As part of a medical radiation oncology team, radiation therapists use machines called linear accelerators to administer radiation treatment to patients. Linear accelerators are most commonly used in a procedure called external beam therapy, which projects high-energy X rays at targeted cancer cells. As the X rays collide with human tissue, they produce highly energized ions that can shrink and eliminate cancerous tumors. Radiation therapy is sometimes used as the sole treatment for cancer, but it is usually used in conjunction with chemotherapy or surgery.

Before treatment can begin, the oncology team has to develop a treatment plan. To create this plan, the radiation therapist must first use an X-ray imaging machine or computer tomography (CT) scan to pinpoint the location of the tumor. Then, a radiation oncologist (a physician who specializes in therapeutic radiology) and a radiation physicist (a worker who calibrates the linear accelerator) determine the best way to administer treatment. The therapist completes the plan by positioning the patient and adjusting the linear accelerator to the specifications developed by the team, recording the details so that these conditions can be replicated during treatment. The therapist later explains the treatment plan to the patient and answers any questions that the patient may have.

The next step in the process is treatment. To begin each treatment session, the radiation therapist uses the guidelines developed during the planning phase to position the patient and adjust the linear accelerator. Then, from a separate room that is protected from the X-ray radiation, the therapist operates the linear accelerator and monitors the patient's condition through a TV monitor and an intercom system. Treatment can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes.
During the treatment phase, the radiation therapist monitors the patient's physical condition to determine whether the patient is having any adverse reactions to the treatment. The therapist must also be aware of the patient's emotional well-being. Because many patients are under stress and are emotionally fragile, it is important for the therapist to maintain a positive attitude and provide emotional support.

Radiation therapists keep detailed records of their patients' treatments. These records include information such as the dose of radiation used for each treatment, the total amount of radiation used to date, the area treated, and the patient's reactions. Radiation oncologists and dosimetrists (technicians who calculate the dose of radiation that will be used for treatment) review these records to ensure that the treatment plan is working, to monitor the amount of radiation exposure that the patient has received, and to keep side effects to a minimum. Therapists also may assist dosimetrists with routine aspects of dosimetry, the process used to calculate radiation dosages.

Radiation Therapist Resources

Online

Overview:
Overview of the work of Radiation Therapists
Preparation:
Programs, Degree Fields
Day in the Life:
Specialty Areas, the Workplace
Earnings:
Salary Ranges, Statistics
Employment:
Employment Options
Career Path Forecast:
Predictions for the field
Professional Organizations:
Resources, Networking, Support
Podcast:
Overview of career paths for Radiation Therapists
Internet Resources:
American Registry of Radiologic Technologists
American Society of Radiologic Technologists

Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology

Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
 


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