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Radiation therapy is the use of high energy radiation to treat certain diseases on its own or in combination with other treatments

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WHAT IS RADIATION THERAPY?

Radiation therapy is the use of high energy radiation to treat certain diseases including cancer. The radiation may be delivered by a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy) or, it may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiation therapy, also called brachytherapy). Radiation therapy is prescribed by a specialist, known as a radiation oncologist, as part of a treatment program. Radiation therapy may be given on its own, or it might be given with other forms of treatment such as chemotherapy, surgery or hormone therapy. Radiation therapy is designed to destroy or damage cancer cells, while minimising the impact of radiation to healthy cells. Radiation therapy is a localised treatment, which is a treatment that in general affects only the part of the body that is receiving the treatment. Radiation therapy can be given with a curative intent (that is with the hope that the treatment will cure a cancer) or a palliative intent (to relieve symptoms and reduce the suffering caused by cancer).

If you are being treated with radiation therapy your radiation oncologist will discuss the treatment with you and will decide the type of radiation and total number of treatments you will have, and how often the treatments will occur. You will also be provided with information about the side effects of your treatment.

WHO IS A ...

RADIATION THERAPIST

Radiation therapists design, plan and administer the daily radiation treatment to patients under the radiation oncologist’s prescription and supervision. Radiation therapist use advanced computer systems to operate sophisticated radiation therapy equipment. They collaborate with radiation oncology medical physicists and radiation oncologists to develop the best treatment plan for the patient, which will deliver the optimum radiation dose to the cancer or target cells and minimise radiation dose to normal, healthy cells. Radiation therapists provide explanations and information to patients about radiation therapy treatment, its possible side effects and self-care procedures. Radiation therapists are responsible for monitoring and assessing the patient's wellbeing throughout their radiation therapy treatment course, taking particular note of side effects of treatment.

RADIATION ONCOLOGY MEDICAL PHYSICIST

Radiation Oncology involves the use of high-energy radiation. The safe and effective application of this radiation requires an understanding of how this radiation is produced and controlled. Radiation Oncology Medical Physicists (‘ROMPs’) are involved in all aspects of radiation production and control, undertaking the commissioning and quality control of treatment equipment, and cooperating with other Radiation Oncology professionals in the design and refinement of patient treatments. ROMPs also undertake basic research to develop new and innovative approaches to radiotherapy. ROMPs typically have undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Physics, specialist training in Radiation Oncology Physics and in Australia are professionally certified by the Australasian College of Physical Scientists and Engineers in Medicine (ACPSEM).

RADIATION ONCOLOGIST

A radiation oncologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the treatment of cancer patients, using radiation therapy as the treatment modality. Radiation oncologists also have expertise in the treatment of non-cancerous conditions with radiation therapy. A Radiation oncologist is responsible for determining and prescribing the most suitable dose of radiation to deliver to the patient, and the method and technique by which this will be achieved. The radiation oncologist oversees the patient’s radiation therapy treatment and works closely with radiation therapists and radiation oncology medical physicists to develop the patient’s treatment plan and ensures that each treatment is delivered accurately. Radiation oncologists have an integral part in all aspects of the management of the patient’s disease and overall care and have an important role in communicating with patients, their family members and other carers. Radiation oncologists work closely with other medical specialists, especially surgeons, medical oncologists and palliative care physicians, as part of a multidisciplinary team caring for patients with cancer.