You are the center of a team of specialists when you choose radiation therapy in our clinic. Radiation therapy is a complex process involving a team of people in your care, some of whom (the dosimetrist or medical physicist, for example) you will never see.
Along with providing your care, this team is teaching students and residents and researching improvements to the care you receive. This keeps them well informed on new ideas and improved techniques that give you better care.
A radiation oncologist is trained to prescribe the radiation dose needed to treat a range of growths or diseases. Many patients we see have cancer, so in this case they consult with the surgeon and the oncologist to decide how surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can best help you. Although radiation oncologists see cancer patients they also treat many patients with benign growths such as arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) or for rare skin conditions such as mycosis fungoides.
If the physician is the person who prescribes the dose, the medical physicist is the person who ensures that the dose prescribed is the dose delivered during treatment. Not seen, but vital to the success of the treatment, these mathematical wizards help in the treatment planning process and are responsible for the machines and devices used each day for treatment.
Nurses and Medical and Nursing Assistants
These are the people at the center of your care who act as a hub connecting you with the other team members. They keep your treatment running smoothly. They know how to help patients undergoing longer treatments and have years of experience unique to the type of treatment you are receiving.
Not all radiation oncology centers have the support of dedicated dosimetrists. During treatment planning it is their task to decide exactly how the radiation beams need to be shaped in order to destroy the unhealthy tissue and spare the normal healthy tissue. In clinics where their skills are not present, this task falls to the physician, leaving them less time to see and treat patients. Many dosimetrists are former therapists. Like medical physicists they are often not seen but still make vital contributions to your care.
Considered the “hands” of radiation therapy, they are the group trained to deliver the treatment. Each day they will position you on the treatment couch and scan you to make sure that the treatment beams are exactly aligned and on target. Their skills extend to operating our imaging devices. Several of our staff are certified to use PET, CT, and MRI machines too.