Radiation Therapy as a Career
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What is radiation therapy?
According to the National Cancer Institute, "Radiation therapy is the treatment of cancer and other diseases with ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation deposits energy that injures or destroys cells in the area being treated (the "target tissue") by damaging their genetic material, making it impossible for these cells to continue to grow."
Radiation in high doses kills cells or keeps them from growing and dividing. Because cancer cells grow and divide more rapidly than most of the normal cells around them, radiation therapy can successfully treat many kinds of cancer.
Normal cells are also affected but, unlike cancer cells, most of them recover from the effects of radiation. To protect normal cells, radiation therapists carefully limit the doses of radiation and spread the treatment out over time. They also shield as much normal tissue as possible while they aim the radiation at the site of the cancer.
External beam radiotherapy uses machines to focus radiation on a cancer site. Radiation can be used to destroy cancer cells both on the surface and deeper in the body and the higher the energy of the beam, the deeper the radiation can penetrate into the target tissue.
Brachytherapy, or "internal" radiotherapy, places radioactive implants directly in a tumour or body cavity, or on the surface of the body. For this treatment, the radiation dose is concentrated in a small area, and the patient may need to stay in the hospital for a few days.
What does a Radiation Therapist do?
Radiation Therapists work closely with doctors, patients and other members of the health care team. They use advanced computer systems and radiation therapy equipment to design and implement treatment plans, including:
- Positioning the patient and operating the radiation therapy equipment
- Constructing and fitting accessory devices that shape, modify and direct the administered radiation to destroy cancerous tissue
- Planning all treatment details, including calculating the radiation dose and simulating its distribution
Therapists also play an important role in counseling patients on possible side effects from the treatment and provide advice on how best to minimize these effects. Because radiation treatments often extend over several weeks, a special supportive relationship often develops between the therapist, the patient and the patient's family.
Find out what inspired others like yourself to pursue a career in the applied health sciences at www.FutureHeroes.ca.
Why become a Radiation Therapist?
- Radiation Therapists use cutting-edge technology. Advanced computer systems allow the simulation and planning of treatment details, and ensure the accuracy and effectiveness of treatment delivery.
- They work closely with patients, doctors, and other health professionals as part of the interdisciplinary health care team. Radiation Therapists provide the patient and their family with in-depth and continuous care, support, and counseling throughout the treatment process.
- Radiation Therapists are detail-oriented and enjoy applying their knowledge of biology, mathematics and physics, since their work requires precision and the safe operation of sophisticated equipment.
The Radiation Therapy programs provide high quality education with credentials that are widely recognized; graduates can find positions throughout Canada and around the world, including:
- Practicing as a frontline Therapist in a cancer centre, providing treatment and care to patients
- Contributing to scientific advances within the profession by performing research studies
- Regulating radiation safety practices and working for government and other agencies
- Advancing into administrative and management positions
- Specializing in sales or new product development with commercial companies
- Training the next generation of Therapists as an educator in a clinical or academic environment
- Expanding on your patient care skills as a counselor
- Advancing into Clinical Specialist Radiation Therapist roles
Graduates are eligible to write the national certification examinations conducted by the Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists (CAMRT). Certification qualifies graduates to work across Canada and allows them to apply for registration with the College of Medical Radiation Technologists of Ontario (CMRTO).
Graduates of the joint University of Toronto/Michener Degree/Diploma program can pursue advanced studies at Michener, including:
The University of Toronto offers a Master of Health Science in Medical Radiation Sciences:
"The Medical Radiation Sciences program really piqued my interest as all three professions in the medical radiation sciences lead to a future in health care, and involve interacting with patients and other professionals, while requiring ability and interest in the sciences.
Radiation Therapy turned out to be a clear choice and best fit for me. The outlook of working with and treating cancer patients, building relationships with them and having an impact in their lives, makes a career in radiation therapy seem very worthwhile and rewarding. The variety of the roles radiation therapists can play in the treatment of cancer patients also interested me. In addition, a profession involved with cancer would intrigue anyone science-inclined, since cancer can be present everywhere in the body. There are different types and stages of cancer, and there is still much to be discovered about the disease."
Aaron Angelo Cumal
Radiation Therapy, Class of 2012
- College of Medical Radiation Technologists of Ontario (CMRTO)
- Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists (CAMRT)
- Ontario Association of Medical Radiation Sciences (OAMRS)
- Cancer Care Ontario
Discover how to become a Radiation Therapist
Radiation Therapy Degree and Diploma Program - U of T
Radiation Therapy Degree and Diploma Program - Laurentian
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