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What is a Radiation Oncologist?
A specialist who uses ionized radiation - along with surgery or chemotherapy - to treat various types of cancer is known as Radiation Oncologist. A radiation oncologist can either work with a multidisciplinary team of other specialists that treat and study cancer or they can work as alone; also known as a clinical oncologist. A radiation oncologist usually undergoes training in oncology for four years before going into practice.
When can you see a Radiation Oncologist?
While cancer and its symptoms are a terminal medical condition, it is important that the patient doesn't ignore the signs and symptoms of cancer and gets the necessary treatment as soon as possible. The earlier the detection of cancer, the easier it is for your radiation oncologist and his/her team to treat this condition.
While a permanent cure for cancer hasn't been discovered yet, recent research states that radiation therapy can benefit every 1 in 2 patients diagnosed with cancer.
Consulting a radiation oncologist
There are many different types of cancer that can be effectively treated with radiation therapy. However, the need for this therapy can only be decided and provided by a radiation oncologist after going through the patient's medical records and diagnosis.
This type of specialist will recommend tests and examinations that the patient will have to go through before the radiation therapy is administered.
1) Consent form
Also the patient will have to sign an informed consent form, without which the specialist will not go through with the procedure. This consent form indicates-
How is the treatment administered by a Radiation Oncologist?
With all the development and research that has gone into this field, oncology has come a long way in delivering better and more effective treatments.
The radiation treatment itself is an elaborate procedure and there are many things that your radiation oncologist and his/her team will run through before the treatment is started. These pre-treatment procedures and actual treatment include:
1) Simulation -Before the patient has to undergo the actual treatment, a trial run will be conducted. This is simply a simulated practice of the actual treatment and is done to see not only how the patient might react but to assess if all the devices are working. This simulation includes-
Scans:This is done to identify the area in the body where the cancer is located. This is done through CT scans, MRIs or X-rays.
Marker: Once the exact location of the cancer is located, that area on the body will be marked. This helps the radiation oncologist identify and aim the beam of radiation at the exact location where the cancer cells reside.
Immobilization Device: Certain items ensure that the patient stay in position during the treatment. These items include tape, plaster casts and headrests, thermoplastic masks (for the neck/head), etc.
Anti-anxiety medications: At times anti-anxiety medications are prescribed to the patient along with the device, to reduce anxiety and help the patient relax during the procedure.
2) During Treatment
The radiation oncologist will review the information collated from the simulation. Based on the information a suitable treatment plan is designed for the patient.
There are mainly two types of radiation therapy administered by a radiation oncologist. These include-
External-beam radiation therapy: This form of therapy is painless and quick. These sessions are usually scheduled 5 times a week and are an outpatient procedure. These sessions span 3 to 9 weeks and the radiation is administered outside the body, through a machine.
The downsides to this procedure are that it can affect healthy tissues around the tumor. However, the 2-day breaks from the treatment help the patient's body recover from the effects of the radiation.
Internal radiation therapy: This form of therapy includes inserting radioactive materials inside the body, where the cancer is located. Also known as seed implantation or brachytherapy, this treatment is mostly an inpatient procedure and might span over many weeks and days; as opposed to the average 3-9 weeks for external-beam radiation therapy.
The placement of radioactive material might be permanent or temporary and can cause pain for which anesthesia is administered.
However, this form of therapy will require protection for others from the exposure to radiation from the patient's implant. The radiation oncologist will decide what precautions need to be taken to protect others from the radiation.
Unlike external-beam radiation therapy, this treatment does not effect the nearby tissues.
3) Post Treatment
Both forms of radiation therapy can cause nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, hair loss, mouth sores, etc. However, the radiation oncologist will decide upon a post-treatment plan to help the patient recover. Some of this includes:
PERSONAL CARE: The specialist will chart a list of things that the patient will have to follow or not follow for personal care, which includes:
Diet plan-The patient will be asked to follow a specific diet. This includes healthy home-cooked meals that are nutrient and protein-dense and excludes foods high in sodium, added sugar, saturated fats and spice. The patient will also be advised to thoroughly wash fruits, vegetables and meat products as well as avoid under-cooked foods or unpasteurized milk products.
Sleep and rest-Doctors will ask the patient to get some extra sleep and rest. While the fatigue will not disappear with the extra rest and sleep, it will, however, help the body recover in the long-run.
SKIN CARE: The patient will be asked to avoid perfumes, deodorants, certain lotions, soaps, cosmetics, etc, as this can cause irritation to the skin. However, certain milder and unscented lotions and soaps with a low-PH balance will be prescribed by the oncologist. The patient will also be asked to avoid sun-exposure as much as possible, including using sun-protective clothing and sunscreen.
WEEKLY REPORTS: Appointments will be fixed by the radiation oncologist to follow-up on the progress of the patient's health as well as recovery. Based on the reports, the treatment plan can change.
Where is a Radiation Oncologist available?
With the aforementioned information in this specialist page, we hope to not only raise public awareness. One can book a consultation online with our very own AskAdoctor radiation oncologist for further clarity.