Radiation oncology is the field of oncology that is involved in the use of radiation (X-rays, gamma rays, or electrons) to treat cancer. Used by itself or in combination with other cancer treatments, radiation is one of the most effective cancer treatments available.
What Do Radiation Oncologists Do?
Radiation oncologists specialize in delivering radiation therapy to people with cancer. Your radiation oncologist will evaluate your diagnosis and discuss your treatment plan with the medical oncologist, if one is leading the treatment plan. Based on the information provided, a radiation therapy treatment plan is tailored to meet your needs.
The type of radiation therapy that may be recommended by your radiation oncologist is dependent on a patient's type of cancer, stage of cancer, and overall health condition. At Affiliated Oncologists, our physicians use advanced treatment planning systems and state-of-the-art radiation technology to deliver cancer treatment that is safer, faster, and more precise.
How Does Radiation Work to Treat Cancer
Radiation therapy uses radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation treatments work on a cellular level, damaging cancer cells to prevent them from growing or dividing while minimizing adverse effects on nearby healthy organs and tissues.
There are two main types of radiation therapy:
- External Beam Radiation Therapy: This form of radiation comes from a machine located outside the body.
- Internal Radiation Therapy: Also called brachytherapy, this type involves placing radiation sources as close as possible to the tumor site. This may mean that the radiation is safely placed inside the body.
Radiation therapy does not kill cancer cells right away. It takes days or weeks of treatment before DNA is damaged enough for cancer cells to die. Then, cancer cells keep dying for weeks or months after radiation therapy ends.
What to Expect During Radiation Therapy Treatment
Learn about what to expect at your first radiation therapy appointment, plan for treatment, and ongoing support available after treatment.
Your Radiation Oncology Team Members
For radiation therapy, your main doctor is a radiation oncologist. He or she will work with the other members of the radiation team to develop your treatment plan and ensure that each treatment is given accurately. Other members on your radiation oncology team often include:
- Radiation Oncology Nurse - nurses who specialize in caring for patients receiving radiation therapy. The oncology nurse can help educate you about treatment and also how to manage side effects.
- Radiation Therapist - the highly trained technologist who administers the radiation therapy to the patient over the course of their treatment plan.
- Medical Physicist - a specialist who is responsible for assuring that the radiation prescribed in imaging and radiation therapy is delivered accurately and safely.
- Dosimetrist - the person who arranges the right dose of radiation therapy for the patient.
Recent advances in radiation treatment used for cancer allow our radiation oncologists to pinpoint radiation with even greater accuracy. This helps to spare healthy tissue and reduce side effects. With today’s technology, radiation therapy is safer and quicker than ever before.
Your Affiliated Oncologists' care team can help determine if radiation therapy is the best option for you. Make an appointment at one of our locations in Hazel Crest, Mokena, Oak Lawn, or Palos Heights, IL to talk to an oncologist who specializes in your type of cancer.