Find out about the different specialists involved in giving radiotherapy treatment.
Specialist radiotherapy doctors
In the UK, doctors who specialise in treating cancer with radiotherapy, chemotherapy and other drug treatments are called clinical oncologists.
In some other countries, such as the USA, they are called radiation oncologists.
In the past they were called radiotherapists
The radiotherapy care team
Your clinical oncologist works as part of a multi disciplinary team (MDT) with other health professionals who are specialists in cancer treatment and care. This MDT may include:
- a surgeon
- a doctor specialising in cancer drug treatment (a medical oncologist)
- therapy radiographers
- doctors who specialise in taking and reading X-rays and scans (radiologists)
- doctors who look at body tissues to diagnose illness (pathologists)
- specialist nurses
- speech and language therapist
- other health care staff such as occupational therapists or social workers
You might still see your own GP during and after your radiotherapy. It is important to let your GP know you are having radiotherapy.
While you are having treatment you are in the care of the radiotherapy specialist, who plans, prescribes and supervises your treatment.
You will see them, or a member of their team, regularly throughout your treatment.
Between the appointments with your specialist, you may see a specialist nurse or radiographer.
One member of the team will be your key worker (main supporter) and you can contact them for information if you need it.
Specialists in radiation science
The medical team who prescribe and plan your radiotherapy work with scientists who specialise in radiation science and are called medical physicists or clinical scientists.
They help to make sure the radiotherapy equipment is accurate and safe.
They also advise on the best way of giving the amount of radiation prescribed and how long you need treatment from a particular radiotherapy machine to get the right dose.
Other staff trained to use and plan the radiotherapy treatment work under the supervision of medical physicists and are called dosimetrists.
You might not meet any of these people working behind the scenes. But you could meet the physicist if you have internal radiotherapy.
Therapy radiographers operate the machines that give you your treatment.
They are highly trained in radiotherapy and patient care and work with the radiotherapy specialist and physicist to plan your treatment.
You usually see the same radiographers throughout your treatment so you get to know each other. They can give you help and advice about your treatment.
You can ask them anything you are worried or anxious about. They can give you advice on coping with any side effects.
The radiotherapy clinic has nursing staff, usually a charge nurse (or sister) and a team of nurses. They look after your general needs, such as:
- information about coping with side effects
They also give you advice and practical support.
Social workers can advise about any problems you may have with:
- practical matters
- money issues
- getting counselling and emotional support for you and your family
They may refer you to local agencies who can help you at home. Some people can claim travelling expenses. Others may apply for a grant from a charity.
Other radiotherapy staff
Many hospitals have a symptom control team.
They give help and support to people whose symptoms or treatment are causing problems.
They also link up with nurses who can continue to see you at home.