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What Radiation Therapy is NOT

Dr Eun-Ji Hwang is a Radiation Oncologist Registrar in Sydney, trying to stop the confusion around radiation therapy. One blog at a time.

Radiation Therapy, aka Radiotherapy, aka Radiation Oncology – all correct terms which are often misunderstood. Radiation Therapy and Radiotherapy both refer to the actual treatment we use; Radiation Oncology is the overarching name of the medical discipline within which we apply this therapy. Those in the field spend many a dinner party or social gathering explaining and repeating what it is that we do and often disclaiming what it isn’t. With all the different terms getting jumbled and mumbled, the confusion often has patients caught in the middle. So here is the clarification of the mumbo-jumbo and a list of things that Radiation Therapy is not.

It is not:

  • Radiology – Yes we share a College with them which (confirming the confusion) is named the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists, but we do not work in radiology. And yes, though we are very skilled at reading scans and base a large portion of our work on imaging, we are not radiologists.

  • Radiotherapy- or Radio- Oncologists – The treating oncologist who is the specialist prescribing the radiotherapy aka radiation therapy is known as a Radiation Oncologist. Not to the confused then with Radiation Therapists who are a crucial part of the team working together with the oncologist to develop and deliver the radiation therapy.

  • Giving Chemotherapy – It’s the more Hollywood-ised form of cancer treatment, and can often by given in conjunction with radiation therapy, but is not what radiation therapy involves. Medical Oncologists manage and give systemic therapies like chemotherapy and we work closely with them.
  • Making you radioactive – Though this would be a cool super power, external beam radiation therapy does not make you radioactive. You do not, I repeat, do not glow in the dark. You are perfectly safe to be around pregnant women and children.

  • Radium Therapy – this is an overhanging term from the 1910s when radium was all the rage. Its no longer the predominant source for radiation therapy as we know it today.

  • Radio-oncology – this is fusion term that I’ve just made up, but could easily be something that could start trending.

So there it is. Hopefully this post has clarified things.

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28 June 2017

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