Don’t be confused by the abbreviation for Radiation Therapy (RT) – it doesn’t have anything to do with Twitter.
This lesser-known area of medicine can mean the difference between life and death for some patients who are treated for their illnesses using RT.
RT is most commonly used in the treatment of cancer. It can be used in addition to chemotherapy, as an adjuvant therapy (therapy to reduce the chances of cancer returning once it has gone, or on its own due to its ability to control cell growth).
Why go into Radiation Therapy?
Edward Leung, 24, is a radiation therapist and graduate of McMaster University and Mohawk College where he received his Bachelor of Medical Radiation Sciences and diploma in Medical Radiation Sciences – Radiation Therapy.
Edward said that he had two reasons for wanting to go into radiation therapy.
“Every day is a different day with radiation therapy, different challenges arise with new patient treatments and with general patient care,” Edward said.
“Secondly, radiation therapy is a very fulfilling job. I want to make a difference, and I could do just that through interacting with patients and helping in any way throughout their journey.”
What’s your favourite part of your job?
If you’re a budding researcher rethinking a career in medicine in order to dedicate more time to research, then you should know that research makes up a large part of a radiation therapist’s job.
In fact, the research aspect of his job is what Edward enjoys the most.
“My favourite part would be the research opportunities radiation therapy provides,” he said.
“There are research groups created to improve patient care through standardization, or to improve treatment delivery through imaging protocol development and to stay up to date with new technologies.”
What does a Radiation Therapy department look like?
A typical radiation therapy department consists of 3 main groups of therapists:
1) Computed Tomography (CT) Simulation Therapists
This group is responsible for scanning the patient using a CT scanner, sending the data over to the treatment planners (see below) and tattooing or marking the exact areas in need of radiation on the patient.
2) Treatment Planners
Treatment planners do exactly what their job title says: they plan the course of treatment for the patient.
3) Unit Therapists
Unit therapists are responsible for delivering the actual radiation to the patient after the exact area and plan for the radiation has been determined.
What does a typical day as a Radiation Therapist look like?
Edward works as a Unit Therapist at a hospital in southern Ontario. Here’s a basic breakdown of what a day in his job might look like:
7:30 a.m. – 8:15 a.m.: Edward typically starts his day by warming up the radiation therapy equipment and then performing a quality assurance check of the machinery.
8:15 a.m.: Patients start arriving for their radiation treatments.
10:00 a.m.: Radiation therapists must treat with a partner at all times so at 10:00 a.m. another staff member will come in to cover paperwork time, breaks, and lunches. Paperwork time generally consists of quality assurance checks of the patient’s charts.
6:00 p.m.: The last patient for radiation therapy is treated and the department closes.