What does a radiation therapist do?

Radiation therapists typically do the following:

  • Examine machines to make sure they are safe and working 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 treat patients with cancer. They often work with the following specialists:

  • Radiation oncologistsphysicians 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
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