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What does a radiation oncologist do?

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Quick Answer

A radiation oncologist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating many types of cancer with high-energy radiation, according to Mayo Clinic. A radiation oncologist works closely with surgeons, medical oncologists and physicians to determine the best course of cancer patient care.

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Full Answer

Treatment planning delineates the overall course of treatment, and this task is the first thing a radiation oncologist does when he sees a patient, notes the National Cancer Institute. The doctor simulates radiation treatment by first taking internal scans of the affected area. A radiation oncologist may use CT scans, ultrasounds, MRIs and PET scans to examine the cancerous growth. Doctors pinpoint areas of the patient's body during simulation to place medical equipment properly when radiation is delivered.

A radiation oncologist uses data from simulation to determine the exact area to be bombarded with radiation, and precisely how much radiation to use, according to the National Cancer Institute. A radiation oncologist authorizes treatment after consulting with a cancer patient's care team. Several factors go into a doctor's decision to use radiation therapy as a cancer treatment, including the type, size and location of the cancer. A radiation oncologist also takes into account medical history, age and general health before prescribing a particular type of radiation treatment. One important part of a radiation oncologist's job involves watching a patient's response to treatment. Weekly monitoring helps a radiation oncologist determine if radiation therapy is working or if another treatment option is more viable.

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