In hospitals and cancer clinics, radiation therapists are key members of the cancer treatment team. More than half of all cancer patients receive radiation treatments, which may be given in conjunction with other forms of treatment.
Radiation therapists use focused beams of radiation to destroy tumors, while minimizing harm to healthy tissues. Alternatively, treatment may involve placing radioactive sources directly into the patient's body.
As part of their professional duty, radiation therapists:
- Explain procedures and Comfort patients.
- Answer questions as fully as possible.
- Position patients and equipment correctly.
- Ensure that proper radiation handling and protection techniques are followed.
- Monitor patients during the procedure.
- Provide emotional support and performs patient education.
Therapists are also involved in the treatment planning aspects of cancer therapy involving radiation, following the prescription of a physician specializing in cancer treatment (radiation oncologist).
Additional responsibilities include:
- perform treatment simulations
- taking measurements
- constructing and fitting accessory devices
- determining radiation doses
In order to destroy cancerous tissue, radiation therapy involves exposure to higher doses of radiation than are required for diagnostic imaging. It is therefore vital that the radiation be precisely targeted and the patient's exposure carefully monitored.
The therapist plays another important role: counseling patients on possible side effects from treatment and providing advice on how to minimize them. Because the course of radiation treatment often takes several weeks, a special supportive relationship usually develops between the therapist and the patient and family members.
Students who wish to enter into the field of Radiation Therapy must possess those "people skills" necessary to work with a wide range of patients as well as university courses such as physics, math and biology to name a few. Currently students must attend a program in Toronto with the clinical portion being offered at the Nova Scotia Cancer Center in Halifax. Prerequisites for acceptance into the program are five first year of university credits, which must include: biology, physics, and math. The next three years are spent in Toronto at the Michener Institute and in Halifax in clinical training. If interested in this program, please click the following link Michener Institute.