Who is a radiation oncologist?
A radiation oncologist is a physician who uses ionizing radiation for the treatment of cancer. Radiation can be given alone or in conjunction with surgery, chemotherapy, and/or hormone therapy, and may also be used to relieve symptoms in patients with advanced cancers. The radiation oncologist also works closely with other physicians such as surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, and urologists as part of a multi-disciplinary cancer care team. Since radiation oncology is a local treatment, it is wise that a consultation with all the necessary oncologic specialists occur before one decides on their treatment plan.
What can you expect when visiting a radiation oncologist?
Like other oncology specialists, the radiation oncologist will evaluate each patient’s health history, biopsy test results and imaging scans in order to factor all available information into a comprehensive treatment plan. They will request imaging studies such as MRI, PET/CT or computed tomography (CT) scans (or ‘simulation’), which are used to accurately locate and visualize the tumor and plan the exact area that will be targeted with radiation.
Radiation can be given internally (brachytherapy) via catheters and other methods or given externally, which is conducted using a linear accelerator. The linear accelerator (LINAC) is a machine that directs high-energy beams to the tumor site and is able to move around the patient to deliver radiation from many angles. The linac is the more common form of radiation treatment and uses additional technologies to control the intensity, size and shape of the beam. The goal of all radiation treatment is to deliver an optimal dose to the tumor while sparing the normal healthy tissues.