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Radiation Oncology Blog

A Blog for Radiation Oncology
Date: Jan 2016

How long have you been a radiation therapist?

I have been a radiation therapist for 6 ½ years at MUSC.  I was a student here for 2 years, which paved the way for me.

Where did you receive your education?

I went to Armstrong State University in Savannah, Georgia, and was undecided on what career in the healthcare field I wanted to do.  I knew I wanted to help people, just not how.  I received my bachelor’s degree in radiologic science, specializing in radiation therapy.

Why did you become a radiation therapist?

I became a radiation therapist because I love to help and interact with people.  I love building a relationship and rapport with my patients.  Some people think that my job is sad and depressing, but it’s the complete opposite.  It is very rewarding!  I treat people the way I want to be treated, with love and respect.  The patients are going through a tough time and we are here for them in more ways than one.  I mean they are not here for a dental cleaning!

Describe one of your most memorable experiences since you began working at Hollings Cancer Center.

One of my most memorable experiences was when I treated a little boy named Ashton who had brain cancer.  He was only 4 years old and had to be put under anesthesia for his radiation.  He was very nervous and scared, so I and the nurse anesthetist tried to make it fun by getting Nerf guns and having “wars” before he had to be put under.  This also brought him out of his shell and made it easier for us to getting the treatment started. It is amazing how resilient and tough little kids are!  He brought so much joy to my life and made me realize why I was here.  I know without a shadow of a doubt, that I was meant to be a Radiation Therapist.  I truly love my job and my coworkers here at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center!

How do you stay abreast of the latest medical developments in your field?

I stay abreast of the latest medical developments in radiation therapy by doing continuing education, going to chart rounds, and conferences.  We are so thankful that Alliance Oncology has come into our department because they have helped us advance our technology and paved the way for the future!

In your spare time, what are your hobbies or special interests?

When I have spare time, I like to go boating and being outdoors with my family.  I am a new mom, so trying to find spare time can be changeling!  I also love being active and working out.  I use my lunch break to go to the gym every day.  It helps with stress and gives me a boost of energy. 

At MUSC Hollings Cancer Center, radiation therapists are part of the Radiation Oncology Care Team and play an important role in patient care before and during treatment. 

Radiation therapists act as a resource for patients to learn about radiation treatment, and in turn, communicate patients' needs and concerns to the treatment team.  Under the direction of radiation oncologists, they operate machines which deliver radiation therapy.  These machines direct high-energy x-rays at specific cancer cells in a patient's body, shrinking or removing them.

Before the treatment procedures begin, radiation therapists educate patients about the treatment process and determine how a patient will be positioned during treatment sessions based on the treatment plan and on a patient's comfort and physical condition.  Most importantly, radiation therapists are focused on patient safety and are responsible for making sure safety procedures are followed, radiation dosage is correct, and equipment is in proper working order before delivering treatment.  Radiation therapists sometimes simulate a treatment to determine if it is appropriate for a specific case or if an alternative method should be pursued.  They also monitor the patient to check for unusual reactions to the treatment and keep detailed records of treatment.

When it comes to fighting cancer, it takes a team of people.  At MUSC Hollings Cancer Center, you are not alone in the fight.  Our Radiation Oncology Care Team, which includes some of the region’s most knowledgeable and dedicated cancer specialists, is here to treat and support you every step of the way. 

In cancer care, different types of doctors often work together and combine treatments to care for a patient.  This is called a multidisciplinary team.  Our center uses a team approach in which our medical experts collaborate to develop a customized treatment plan for your specific case.  Team members may include a surgeon, radiation oncologist, medical oncologist, medical physicist, nurse, radiation therapist and other experts.

There are several benefits of using a team approach to treating cancer.  This approach gives the patient access to the right team of health professionals to plan the best treatment for the patient’s cancer type based on current research.  Together, the team can review all the factors that may affect the patient’s treatment to help prevent unexpected health problems and identify any supportive care needed.  Other benefits may include:

- faster access to treatment and referral to services,

- improved care coordination, meaning less duplication of medical tests,

- less travel for treatments,

- greater opportunity to hear about clinical trials,

- receiving appropriate and consistent information, as the person giving it knows the team’s plan for your care and your personal choices.

Patients should have a sense that their doctors have a coordinated plan of care and are working effectively with one another.  If patients do not feel that the members of their health care team are communicating effectively with them or each other about the goals of treatment and the plan of care, patients should discuss this with their doctors or seek additional medical opinions before treatment.

For more information on MUSC Hollings Cancer Center’s Radiation Oncology Care Team, please click here