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Radiation Therapy - Overview


Radiation therapy programs prepare people to treat tumors in cancer patients. Students learn to operate machines and comfort patients. They learn to keep records and help put together treatment plans.

Radiologic technology uses X-rays to diagnose and treat injuries and diseases. You may have experienced one type of this field, radiography, by getting an X-ray. Perhaps you were daunted by the large machinery, or the instructions to hold your breath while an image of your teeth or arm bone was being taken.

If that was the case, imagine how intimidating those machines might seem to a cancer patient whose life may depend on X-rays. Those same high energy rays that can produce images of bones are also used to break down cancer cells. This process is called radiation therapy.

It isn't hard to see how this program of study combines technological know-how with compassion in a rewarding way. Yet there is currently a nationwide shortage of radiation therapists. As a radiation therapist, you would operate sophisticated radiation equipment. At the same time, you would be monitoring both a patient's physical and psychological conditions.

As a student in this program, you would learn about the principles of radiation science and how those principles apply to cancer treatment. Because radiation therapists often help put together a treatment plan for patients, you would also learn to calculate effective dosages. These are just a couple of things that radiation therapy programs teach you.

Many schools in the U.S. offer programs in radiation therapy. You can earn a certificate, associate degree, or bachelor's degree. A certificate or an associate degree typically takes one to three years of full-time study after high school. A bachelor's degree generally takes four years. The length of study depends on whether or not you already have experience in radiography.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.
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