Cancer is a complicated disease to comprehend, both for patients and medical professionals. Treatments span long periods, making your journey hard to endure at times. But oncology is continuously growing with more studies, higher demand for services, and emerging technologies, such as radiation therapy.
Cancer patients don’t have only one or two people on their cancer treatment team. There are several health professionals involved in cancer care, and one of them is a radiation oncologist. Here’s what you need to know about them and their expertise.
What Are Radiation Oncologists?
Radiation oncologists are doctors who specialize in radiation therapy for cancer treatment. They train for a year under internal medicine or surgery after medical school. Afterward, they enter a 4-year residency program in radiation oncology.
They then undergo board certification through the American Board of Radiology. Radiation oncologists can also participate in fellowship programs for further specialization. Likewise, they are encouraged to participate in research studies as part of the Maintenance of Certification program. This helps the continuity of learning and advancements in the radiotherapy field.
Working with a Team
Radiation oncologists lead teams of nurses, medical physicists, radiation therapists, and dosimetrists in cancer treatment plans. These doctors also work hand-in-hand with surgeons, pathologists, and other types of oncologists. The collaboration among your cancer treatment team aims to provide you with comprehensive care.
With the complexity of the disease and treatment, radiation oncologists are a vital part of your cancer treatment team. They are equipped with expert knowledge about cancer and radiation therapy and are continuously learning to provide patients with up-to-date cancer treatments. Before choosing a radiation oncologist, make sure they are in a hospital with state-of-the-art equipment. This will guarantee you access to facilities and services that can decrease treatment side effects and improve cure rates.
How Radiation Therapy Works
Radiation therapy (or radiotherapy) can be used to treat malignant and benign tumors. It uses X-rays or other high-energy particles like photons, electron beams, and gamma rays to kill cancer cells. This treatment method targets cancer cells and destroys the genetic material that promotes their continuous growth and division.
During the process, nearby healthy cells may be affected. However, your radiation oncology team will ensure that the radiation dose will cause the least side effects. Likewise, normal cells can repair much of the damage from treatment. Depending on your condition, you may also receive drugs called radiosensitizers that make cancer cells more sensitive to radiation therapy.
Patients can take radiotherapy as the sole treatment plan. However, depending on your diagnosis, it can be a complementary treatment to immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and surgery.
Radiation oncologists can use radiotherapy before and after surgery. If performed before, it can shrink the tumor; if performed after, the goal is to prevent cancer from recurring. Radiation therapy is also used to ease symptoms of advanced cancer.
Radiation oncologists and their team recognize that there is a safe limit of radiation an area of your body can receive. This factor is considered when planning your treatment.
Types of Radiation Therapy
Since there are different types of cancer, radiation therapy also has various forms. Systemic radiation therapy is a form of internal radiotherapy wherein patients receive liquid radioactive substances through ingestion or injections. Patients with thyroid cancer or prostate cancer often use this treatment.
Brachytherapy is another type of internal radiotherapy. This involves implanting solid forms of radioactive substances on or near the tumor. Depending on the type of cancer you have, a radiation oncologist may leave the radiation in your body to work or remove it after some time. Brachytherapy is often used for cervical, breast, prostate, head and neck, and eye cancer.
Another type of radiation therapy is called external radiation or external beam therapy. With this treatment, radiation is applied from outside the body. You will first undergo a simulation during which your radiation oncologist determines the area that needs treatment. How often and how long you need the treatment will depend on your condition. Nonetheless, you are given time to recover. External radiation therapy applies to a wide range of cancer types.
Radiation Oncologist in Wooster, OH
Many people comprise your cancer team, from oncologists of various types, oncology nurses, and pathologists to pharmacists, financial counselors, and nutritionists. You are not alone in your cancer journey.
Here at Wooster Community Hospital, we are committed to giving you comprehensive and personalized cancer treatment. We have specialized services, advanced equipment, and experienced specialists to give you the care you need. We work in collaboration with the James Cancer Network at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center to deliver better care.
For inquiries and concerns, you may call (330) 262-2800. We look forward to serving you.