Adult Health Library
Therapeutic Radiology Overview
Therapeutic radiology is also called radiation oncology or radiation therapy. It is the treatment of cancer and other diseases with radiation. Oncology is the branch of medicine that focuses on diagnosing and treating cancer. Radiation in many forms is used to kill the cancer cells by preventing them from multiplying. Therapeutic radiology may be used to cure or control cancer. Or it may be used to ease some of the symptoms linked to cancer.
Healthcare providers who treat diseases with therapeutic radiology are called radiation oncologists.
Therapeutic radiology was developed just a few years after X-rays were discovered in 1895 and radium in 1898. The first cure of cancer by radiation was reported in 1899. It involved a case of skin cancer. Radiation oncology became a medical specialty in 1922.
Therapeutic radiology treatment may be used alone, or along with other types of treatment. These include surgery, chemotherapy, and other treatments.
Your radiation oncologist will decide on the amount and type of radiation to use based on the type of cancer, location of the tumor, and sensitivity of the surrounding tissue.
Although each treatment facility may have specific practices in place, radiation oncology procedures often include the following steps.
To help set up the actual treatment, the treatment team first "maps" out the position you will be in for each treatment. This is done with the help of molds, headrests, or other devices. Sometimes the team will mark the area on the body to be treated. This will help make sure the radiation will be given in the exact area. They may also make special shields to help focus the radiation and protect surrounding tissue.
Once the simulation has taken place, the radiation oncologist will decide the exact type of treatment.
Therapeutic radiology treatment can be confusing and stressful for both you and your family. If you have questions or concerns about the treatment, ask your radiation oncologist.
Online Medical Reviewer: Grossman, Neil, MD