Many of us have had to deal with different forms of cancer, whether personally or in the life of a family member, loved one, or friend.
In the medical field, research and scientific studies continue to be carried out in an attempt to increase our understanding of the various types of cancer, as well as improve our ability to combat its effects.
Radiation oncology is one of the treatment techniques used today to eradicate specific cancers in the body.
The Job of Radiation Oncologists
Radiation oncologists’ duties will include the analysis and confirmation of cancer-related diagnoses from a physician or diagnostic radiologist. They are part of the process of determining the results of an imaging examination performed on a patient.
Radiation oncologists also must figure out the best treatment or therapy to recommend to a patient with cancer. This treatment will attempt to eradicate the cancerous cells in the patient’s body, but maintain the healthy state of the other cells around the cancerous area.
Using advanced imaging techniques and three-dimensional equipment, radiation oncologists determine where cancerous tumors and cells are located, and then map out a treatment strategy that will minimize the risks of radiation.
Radiation Treatment Strategies
One example of radiation treatments is stereotactic radiosurgery, a minimally invasive procedure that locates specific areas of the body through high-powered X-rays. This technique then performs actions such as lesions, biopsies, injections, implantation, and other procedures.
Radiation therapy can also be combined with chemotherapy, another form of treatment which uses chemical agents to eliminate cancer in the body.
Radiation oncologists have the serious responsibility of discussing with the patient the extent of the cancer in his or her body, and then going over treatment plans and strategies that will have to be undertaken, as well as how much drugs or radiation the patient will have to undergo.
It is a must for radiation oncologists to have very strong communication and interpersonal skills, with the ability to calmly and clearly discuss medical conditions and treatments with patients, provide motivation and leadership, share encouragement, and give emotional support.
Training to Become a Radiation Oncologist
Training to become a radiation oncologist starts with a bachelor’s degree in a medical or science-related field of study.
Applying to medical school is the next step, which is another four years, followed by a 12-month internship and four years of resident training. Residency is particularly important because students will learn and master both clinical and radiation oncology.
In the United States, radiation oncologists seek certification from the American Board of Radiology, and are licensed after passing the United States Medical Licensing Examination.
As with most careers related to radiology, the average salary for a radiation oncologist is generally higher compared to other peers in the medical field due to the demand for medical professionals who are skilled in the different areas of radiology. In 2010, the average annual salary for a radiation oncologist stood at $151,000.
Employment opportunities are also abundant, with a 22 percent increase between 2002-2018 projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as the population ages and requires radiation treatments.