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Research for the Radiation Therapist

Research for the Radiation Therapist PDF

Research for the Radiation Therapist PDF


Radiation therapy is critical in the fight against cancer. More than one million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year. It is estimated that about half of them receive radiation therapy as part of their treatment. Radiation may be used alone or in conjunction with surgery, chemotherapy or other forms of cancer therapy.

Radiation therapy is also known as radiotherapy, x-ray therapy, electron beam therapy, cobalt therapy, or irradiation. Whatever term you use, it is a treatment that uses high-energy x-rays, targeted at a tumor, to help shrink or eliminate cancerous tissue. Sometimes tumors are considered inoperable because of their size. Radiation therapy can be used to shrink them down to a manageable size so that they can be surgically removed. The treatment is also commonly used following surgery to destroy any cancer cells that were not removed by surgery. When a cure is not possible, radiation can be used to help relieve the symptoms of advanced cancer (such as bleeding or pain).

The radiation for cancer treatment comes from special machines operated by radiation therapists. These professionals work as members of an entire oncology (cancer) team, performing many other important duties during the planning and treatment process.

Most (about 70 percent) radiation therapists work in hospitals or in cancer treatment centers. Others work in physicians’ offices as assistants, and a small number work in outpatient care centers and medical and diagnostic laboratories performing research. Across all practice settings, job opportunities for radiation therapists are expected to increase dramatically. As the population in the United States ages and develops higher risks for cancer, the demand grows. As radiation technology becomes safer and more effective, it will be prescribed more often, leading to even more jobs for radiation therapists.

Considering the attractive features of this career – good pay and great job outlook – the educational requirements are quite modest. There are two ways to get the necessary training. One is by obtaining an associate or a bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. The other is to go through a certificate program, which generally takes less time than the full four years of an undergraduate degree. Prospective radiation therapists should make sure that their degree or certificate program is certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) before they enroll.

Once radiation therapists begin working, their earnings are fairly high. Beginners start out with salaries of $50,000 per year on average. Their earnings rise the longer they stay in the job – those with 10 year’s experience typically make $75,000 to $85,000 per year. Some make even more working at specialty hospitals or in medical and diagnostic laboratories.

The greatest reward of working as a radiation therapist is witnessing the scientific advances that allow many cancer patients to survive and go back to leading healthy lives. It was just over 100 years ago that the German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen discovered x-rays and the scientist Marie Curie discovered the radioactive element radium. Their discoveries began a new era in medical treatment and research. Radiation therapy techniques have improved dramatically, especially in recent years. Radiation therapists get to watch from the front lines as treatment techniques continue to advance. They have the satisfaction of knowing that their work makes a profound difference in patients’ lives.

If you are detail oriented, good at communication, and enjoy being physically, emotionally, and intellectually challenged, radiation therapy may be a good career choice for you.

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