The term, radiology, refers to the science behind X-rays and other similar devices. Radiology helps diagnose and treat not only cancer, but also a number of other harmful diseases. Even so, physicians use radiology most frequently in the treatment of various types of cancer. Oncologists prescribe radiation treatments to eliminate the cancer cells once an X-ray pinpoints the cancer location, in hopes of restoring the patient to full health.
How Do Health Care Pros Use Radiologic Technology?
Radiology has many technological uses. X-rays and MRI scanners could not operate without radiologic technology. Experts in the health care industry also use this technology for plain film radiography, mammography, fluoroscopy procedures, angiography procedures and computerized tomography.
Doctors and health care technicians typically employ three different types of radiation treatments.
- External beam radiation therapy – this involves having an external machine deliver radiation into a person’s body.
- Internal radiation therapy – also known as brachytherapy, this technique requires that a doctor place radioactive material inside a patient’s body. The doctor places the radioactive material near the cancer cells.
- Systemic radiation therapy – this represents a form of internal radiation therapy in which the physician or technician places radioactive iodine inside the patient to help eliminate cancer. The nurse or technician injects the iodine into the patient’s bloodstream; from there it travels throughout the body to eliminate cancerous cells.
The type of treatment used depends on the type of cancer a person has, the patient’s age, and the stage (or level) of malignancy present. The medical teams that utilize radiologic technology use different types of radiation for the various treatments:
- Gamma rays
- Charged particles
Not all radiation technologies work for all forms of cancer. An experienced physician, usually an oncology specialist, must assess the various options and choose the most suitable and effective form of treatment.
Benefits of Radiology in Fighting Cancer
The benefits of using radiology to fight cancer are almost innumerable. Without radiologic technology, many forms of treatable cancer would go undetected. Radiology makes it possible for doctors to see inside a person’s body and determine whether the patient has a tumor or some other form of cancer.
Doctors prescribe radiation therapy to nearly half of all cancer patients to combat their deadly disease. Radiation therapy does not always guarantee that a person will overcome cancer once and for all. Additionally, patients should not agree to undergo radiation therapy lightly. The powerful radioactive material used in the technology can cause many negative side effects such as:
- Hair loss
- Weight loss
- Unwanted skin changes
In many cases, patients have no alternative, as cancer proves very challenging to combat. Radiation represents one of the few ways to get rid of cancerous cells that have metastasized.
What Does a Radiology Education Entail?
Those who work in radiology find it quite rewarding. An individual who wants to work in this field must obtain a bachelor’s degree, although a master’s degree is often advisable as it carries greater weight than a Bachelor of Science.
A person can earn the degree by studying on campus or even over the Internet through an online degree program. Besides obtaining a general degree, students choose a particular aspect of radiology for specialization.
Radiology has numerous uses and its advent has changed the world of health care for the better. It plays a key role in detecting cancer by powering devices that allow medical professionals to see into a person’s body and determine what type of cancer he or she has and its location.
Licensed physicians, who specialize in radiology, work with oncologists to deliver radiation treatment to patients in an attempt to restore him or her to full health.
About the author: Writer and guest contributor, Andrew Deen, focuses on producing informative articles that relate to health sciences, including the benefits of radiological studies.