Why is therapeutic radiography so important?
Therapeutic radiography is all about the treatment of cancer. Cancer comes in many forms, shapes and sizes and requires a variety of methods to combat it.
One of which is the use of radiation. This is the tool of the therapeutic radiographer, and involves doses of radiation being aimed at tumours. It’s a highly technical field and everyone working in this area possesses a fantastic knowledge of the equipment they are using and how it affects the patients they are working with. Therapeutic radiography is not to be confused with diagnostic radiography, which involves producing X-rays.
Considering that it's estimated that 50% of people born after 1960 will be diagnosed with at least some form of cancer,* the problem is absolutely huge, and understandably is the focus of so much research, investment and treatment. Whilst efforts continue to find that all-important cure, therapeutic radiography is one of the methods used to combat and reduce the effects of cancer.
What do therapeutic radiographers do?
You’ll be working in the oncology department, where you’ll be helping to treat cancerous tumours. A lot of your time will be spent meeting patients, assessing the extent of the issue at hand and then planning a course of treatment to combat it.
This will require you to liaise with physicists and clinical oncologists, as well as the patients themselves, to ensure that you are able to gather enough information to carry out the therapeutic radiography as accurately as possible.
Once you have identified the areas for treatment using a CT scanner or an X-ray simulator, you will then need to assess how much radiation needs to be applied to the particular area, both in terms of the intensity of the beams used and the daily dosage.
This part is crucial because tumours are surrounded by healthy tissue. The aim is to apply as much radiation as possible to the tumour, whilst limiting its effect on the healthy tissue that surrounds it.
How do I get into therapeutic radiography?
Given the level of responsibility that falls upon this particular line of work, everybody involved in this profession must have an expert level of training and qualifications. To become a therapeutic radiographer, you will need to possess an undergraduate degree or complete a postgraduate qualification that is approved by the relevant governing bodies.
People who gain employment in this field typically study biological sciences at university, although the profession is not exclusive to people with these degrees. There are also possible routes that don’t involve going to university. For example, you can complete a relevant HND (Higher National Diploma) and complete your training ‘on the job’.
Regardless of your route, there are certain characteristics that all therapeutic radiographers need to possess in order to be effective.
First and foremost, interpersonal skills are crucial. You will be dealing with patients and their families in emotionally charged situations, so you must be sensitive to the stress which they are under. An interest in science is another prerequisite, and the ability to work as part of a team to deliver the best possible treatment is essential.
Considering the extent to which cancer affects individuals, families, and society as a whole, the opportunity to work against its damaging effects is pretty bloody commendable, if you ask us. So, if you think you’re up for the challenge, then well done, you!