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A Career in Radiation Oncology – YOUR CHOICE SAVE LIVES

Radiation Oncology focuses on the treatment of cancer patients with radiation therapy treatment (also known as radiotherapy).  A career in Radiation Oncology offers an exciting, rewarding and technology driven medical career option.

Cancer affects an increasing number of families and cancer has a major impact on the community, with one in every three people developing cancer in their lifetime. Cancer treatment is an important health priority area in Australia. Radiation Oncology’s impact in the fight against cancer is important.

Radiation therapy is a proven, effective way to treat cancer and can be used alone or together with other treatments like surgery or chemotherapy (anti-cancer drugs). Using highly precise doses of radiation to damage or destroy cancer cells, radiation therapy is usually delivered to patients in controlled measures called fractions, over a number of weeks using a machine called a linear accelerator.

Radiation oncology professionals require excellent communication, problem solving and teamwork skills as well as a keen interest in healthcare, science, and patient care.

There are three specialities involved in the delivery of radiation therapy. These include:

  • Radiation oncologist – a medical doctor who completes training to specialise in the management of cancer patients, specifically using radiation therapy. Radiation oncologists use cutting-edge technology and work in teams with other doctors to create and deliver radiation therapy to patients.
  • Radiation therapist – a health professional who designs, calculates (plans) and provides the radiation dose to patients and is responsible for ongoing patient care and well-being of the patient and their family over the length of treatment.
  • Radiation oncology medical physicist – a scientist who creates, implements and monitors the delivery of radiation therapy, taking into account the protection and safety of patients and others involved in the treatment process.

These three specialities work together as part of a multidisciplinary team to ensure that the patient’s treatment is delivered accurately and safely. 

Radiation Oncology is an inspiring, rewarding and exciting medical career with a range of opportunities in the public and private areas. It combines the best areas of care for patients of all ages, with challenging and continually changing treatment. The daily work can be interesting and motivating.

There is an ongoing need for professionals in Radiation Oncology as the need for more cancer treatment in the population increases. Radiation Oncology is a career with good job prospects. Work hours are regular and there is the added flexibility to travel and work overseas.

Salaries vary across the three specialities and also vary from State to State as Health is a State concern and not a Federal jurisdiction. Further details regarding salary are available from individual departments and practices.

The table below outlines the training and education required as well as career pathways for each speciality involved in radiation oncology.

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In Australia, Radiation Oncology departments are found in major public hospitals, some private hospitals or private oncology clinics. Most departments are found in capital cities or larger regional and rural locations. Radiation therapy is usually given as an outpatient treatment which means that patients will visit just for the radiation therapy treatment.

Compared to other specialities, radiation therapy is delivered in a relatively small number of centres – 67 centres across Australia in 2013.

There is a common misunderstanding that working with radiation is unsafe. In radiation oncology, this is not the case. Radiation therapy is delivered in a safe environment with controlled and monitored safety measures. Radiation Oncology professionals are carefully monitored and are trained to minimise the radiation dose to the patient and the public. Radiation Oncology professionals are not present in the treatment area during the patient’s treatment, but are positioned outside the room closely monitoring the patient on CCTV cameras.

Further information on ‘A Career in Radiation Oncology’ can be found at www.acareerinradiationoncology.com.au. If you would like a careers resource pack for your school, please contact info@acareerinradiationoncology.com.au.  

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