What is a Radiation Therapist?

Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases in patients by giving radiation treatments. Most radiation therapists work in hospitals or cancer treatment centers.

Also known as: Registered Radiation Therapist, Radiotherapist, Therapeutic Radiographer

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What does a Radiation Therapist do?

Radiation therapists typically do the following:

  • Examine machines to make sure they are safe and work properly
  • Explain treatment plans to the patient and answer questions about treatment
  • Follow safety procedures to protect the patient and themselves from overexposure
  • X-ray the patient to determine the exact location of the area requiring treatment
  • Check the computer programs to make sure that they will give the correct dose of radiation to the correct area of the patient's body
  • Operate the equipment to treat the patient with radiation
  • Monitor the patient to check for unusual reactions to the treatment
  • Keep detailed records of treatment.

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:

  • Radiation oncologists, physicians who specialize in radiation therapy
  • Oncology nurses, nurses who specialize in patients with cancer
  • Radiation physicists, physicists who calibrate linear accelerators
  • Dosimetrists, workers who calculate the correct dose of radiation to use in the treatment.

What is the workplace of a Radiation Therapist like?

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.

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