Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases in patients by giving radiation treatments. Most radiation therapists work in hospitals or cancer treatment centers.
Radiation therapists typically do the following:
Most radiation therapy involves machines called linear accelerators. These machines direct high-energy x-rays at specific cancer cells in a patient's body, shrinking or removing them. Radiation therapists are part of the oncology team that treats patients with cancer. They often work with the following specialists:
Although candidates may qualify by completing a 12-month certificate program, employers usually prefer to hire applicants who have an associate’s or a bachelor's degree in radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy programs include courses in radiation therapy procedures and the scientific theories behind them. In addition, these programs often include courses in human anatomy and physiology, physics, algebra, computer science, and research methodology. In most jurisdictions, radiation therapists must have a license, and requirements vary across these. To be licensed, radiation therapists must usually graduate from an accredited radiation therapy program and be certified. To become certified, an applicant must complete an accredited radiation therapy program, adhere to specified ethical standards, and pass the certification exam. The exam covers radiation protection and quality assurance, clinical concepts in radiation oncology, treatment planning, treatment delivery, and patient care and education.
Radiation therapists work in healthcare facilities or cancer treatment centers. They are on their feet for long periods and may need to lift or turn disabled patients. Because they work with radiation and radioactive material, radiation therapists must follow safety procedures to make sure that they are not exposed to a potentially harmful amount of radiation. This restriction usually means standing in a different room while the patient undergoes radiation procedures.