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Radiation Therapy Team

Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or particles to kill cancer cells. It's one of the most common cancer treatments. Your radiation therapy team includes specially trained medical experts who will work with you during treatment. The team will help you set goals. They'll make a treatment plan. Then they'll give you the treatment and support you through it. Ask questions when you don’t understand what's happening. And let your team know how you’re doing.

Treatment goals

The goals of radiation can include:

  • Curing cancer

  • Killing cancer cells that remain after surgery or chemotherapy

  • Shrinking a tumor so it can be taken out with surgery

  • Controlling cancer for a period of time

  • Reducing symptoms of cancer, such as pain or bleeding

  • Treating cancer that has come back

Treatment plan

Your radiation therapy team will work with you to make a treatment plan. They'll ask you about your health history. A physical exam and imaging scans will be done. Then the radiation therapy team will:

  • Map out the position you'll be in for each treatment.

  • Pick the exact place on your body where the radiation will be given.

  • Decide the dose (amount) of radiation needed and the best way to give it.

  • Plan the number of treatments needed.

Team members

Members of your radiation team include: 

  • Radiation oncologist. This is a doctor who has special training to use radiation to treat cancer. They lead your radiation treatment program and will see you in follow-up. This doctor works closely with your other healthcare providers to monitor the progress of the treatment. While you're getting treatment, changes can made to make sure the radiation is working. Another goal is keeping radiation side effects under control. You will likely see this doctor at least once a week during your treatment.

  • Radiation physicist and dosimetrist. These healthcare providers help with the technical parts of your care. They calculate the exact dose of radiation you’ll get. They also help decide the best shape and angles for the treatment beams. They work with the radiation oncologist to design the best radiation treatment plan for you.

  • Radiation therapist. This type of specialist operates the machines that give the treatments. They work under the direction of the radiation oncologist. Before every treatment, they put you into the right position and set up the machine. They do this to make sure the beams are aimed at the right spot. Then they control the machine that sends the beams to the tumor. You can ask them any questions you might have. They'll be able to answer or refer you to the nurse or doctor to help answer your questions. You'll spend the most time with this therapist during your course of treatment.

  • Radiation oncology nurse. This nurse assists the team in your care. They can give you information about your treatment and help you know what to expect. They also help you manage side effects. You'll typically meet with the nurse at least once a week.

There may be other healthcare providers that are part of your team. These can include: 

  • Social worker

  • Patient navigator

  • Dietitian

  • Dentist

  • Physical therapist

If you have questions or concerns, talk with your team. Don't be afraid to ask any of the team members questions that may come up. They will answer them or direct you to another person on the team who will.

Online Medical Reviewer: Dave Herold MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Kimberly Stump-Sutliff RN MSN AOCNS
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2022
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