Who gives radiotherapy?

Many different health care professionals work together to deliver radiotherapy treatment. This includes doctors and therapeutic radiographers.  

Specialist radiotherapy doctors

In the UK, clinical oncologists are doctors who specialise in treating cancer with:

  • radiotherapy
  • simple chemotherapy
  • other drug treatments

In some other countries, such as the USA, they are called radiation oncologists.

The radiotherapy care team

Your clinical oncologist works as part of a multi disciplinary team Open a glossary item (MDT). This is 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)
  • paediatric oncologist for children
  • therapeutic radiographers - they plan and deliver radiotherapy to people with cancer
  • doctors who specialise in taking and reading x-rays and scans (radiologists)
  • doctors who look at body tissues to diagnose illness (pathologists)
  • specialist nurses
  • physiotherapists
  • dietitians
  • speech and language therapists
  • other health care staff such as occupational therapists or social workers

While you are having radiotherapy you are in the care of a clinical oncologist. Your oncologist approves your radiotherapy plan. They also prescribe and supervise your treatment. You see them, or a member of their team, regularly throughout your treatment. 

Between these appointments, you may see a specialist nurse or radiographer. One member of the team will be your main contact. You can speak to them if you need any information.

You might still see your own GP during and after your radiotherapy. It is important to let your GP know you are having radiotherapy.

Specialists in radiation science

The medical team that prescribes and plans your radiotherapy work together with specialist scientists. They are also known as medical physicists, dosimetrists or clinical scientists.

Medical physicists advise on the best way to give the amount of radiation prescribed. And how long you need treatment from a particular radiotherapy machine to get the right dose. They also make sure the radiotherapy equipment is accurate and safe. 

A physicist or therapeutic radiographer specialised in planning, create your radiotherapy plan.

You might not meet any of these people. But you could meet the physicist if you have internal radiotherapy.

Therapeutic radiographers

Therapeutic radiographers operate the machines that give you your treatment. They are trained in radiotherapy and patient care. They work with the oncologist and physicist to plan and deliver your treatment.

The staff try to make sure you have some of the same radiographers throughout your treatment. This is so you get to know each other. They can give you advice about your treatment and arrange for you to see a doctor.

You can ask them anything you are worried or anxious about. They can give you advice on coping with any side effects.

Photo of a radiographer and a patient about to have radiotherapy

Nursing staff

The radiotherapy clinic have nursing staff, usually a charge nurse (or sister) and a team of nurses. They look after your general needs, such as:

  • dressings
  • medicines
  • information about coping with side effects

They also give you advice and practical support.

Social workers

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 travel expenses. Others may apply for a grant from a charity.

Other radiotherapy staff

Many hospitals have a symptom control team. They support and help people whose symptoms or treatment are causing them problems.

They also link up with nurses who can continue to see you at home.

  • External Beam Therapy (Radiotherapy in Practice) Third Edition
    Peter Hoskin
    Oxford University Press, 2019

  • Devita, Hellman and Rosenberg's Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (12th edition)
    VT Devita, TS Lawrence and SA Rosenberg
    Wolters Kluwer Health, 2023

  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser
    Wiley Blackwell, 2015

  • Walter and Miller's Textbook of Radiotherapy: Radiation Physics, Therapy and Oncology (8th edition)
    R Symonds, J A Mills and A Duxbury
    Elsevier, 2019

Last reviewed: 
20 Oct 2023
Next review due: 
20 Oct 2026

Related links