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Radiation therapy involves treating disease with penetrating beams of high-energy radiation. For example, radiation therapy is used to treat cancer, either alone or in conjunction with surgery and chemotherapy.
Radiation therapists are highly skilled members of the cancer management team. They are responsible for accurately recording, interpreting and administering the treatment prescribed by radiation oncologists. Radiation therapists take daily X-ray images, analyze them and make adjustments to the patient to ensure accurate treatment. During simulation, therapists operate a computerized tomography (CT) scanner to obtain images to assist the physician in localizing and outlining the anatomical areas requiring treatment.
Radiation therapists have continual contact with patients for the course of their treatment, educating them about treatment and simulation procedures and potential radiation side effects.
Monitoring and observing each patient's clinical progress and emotional needs also are part of the therapist's daily routine. The therapist, as a member of the health care team, refers patients to physicians, nurses or social service professionals when necessary.
Career opportunities for radiation therapists are good. Jobs are available in all areas of the country, both rural and metropolitan. Salaries are competitive with other health care professions that require similar levels of education.
Radiation therapists are employed in hospitals, universities and clinics. After further study, you may advance to positions such as chief therapist, education director or dosimetrist, as well as to administrative positions.
According to the Department of Labor, the national median annual salary of radiation therapists was $80,160 in May 2016 (most recent data available). Salaries ranged from $53,680 to more than $123,710 for the highest 10 percent of wage earners. Salary is dependent on location, experience and employer.