Staff in the radiotherapy department
In most hospitals, a team of specialists will meet to discuss and agree on the plan of treatment they feel is best for your situation. This team is known as a multidisciplinary team (MDT).
Here, we’ve listed the staff who are involved in planning and giving your radiotherapy.
A clinical oncologist, sometimes called a cancer specialist, is a doctor who is trained in the use of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. They are responsible for prescribing and supervising your course of treatment.
You may see your clinical oncologist before, during and after your course of radiotherapy so that the effect of the treatment can be monitored. If you have any problems between these appointments, the nurses or radiographers can arrange an extra appointment for you.
If you’re having chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy, your treatment may also be supervised by a medical oncologist. Medical oncologists specialise in chemotherapy treatment.
Therapy radiographers are trained in giving radiotherapy and have an important role in your treatment:
They work closely with your clinical oncologist and a physicist to plan your treatment.
They operate the radiotherapy machines that give you your treatment.
They help to position you for your treatment sessions.
They provide information, practical care and support throughout your treatment.
Where possible, you’ll see the same therapy radiographers throughout your course of treatment. You can discuss any concerns or anxieties about your treatment with them. If you prefer, you can ask to be treated by a radiographer of the same sex as you. The radiographers will try to do this where possible.
Some hospitals have specialist radiographers who are experts in treating specific types of cancer. If you have a specialist radiographer, they will be involved in all the stages of your radiotherapy treatment, from planning it, to giving it and providing support.
Information and support radiographers
Some hospitals have information and support radiographers. They are experts in providing you and your family with practical and emotional support.
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Some radiotherapy departments have radiotherapy assistants. They help the radiographers deliver your treatment and can give you information and support.
A radiologist is a specialist in interpreting scans. They review your scans with your clinical oncologist. This helps your clinical oncologist plan your treatment.
A physicist is a radiation expert who works closely with your clinical oncologist to plan your treatment. They work out the amount of radiation you need and the best way of giving it, so that it targets the cancer and any effects on normal tissue are minimised.
The physicist is also responsible for carrying out regular checks on the radiotherapy equipment. You may not meet the physicist, as they usually work behind the scenes.
These may be technicians or specially trained radiographers. They make moulds and masks, which are sometimes needed to help a person stay still during their treatment.
Moulds and masks are usually made in a mould room.
Some radiotherapy clinics have nurses who give information about the treatment and side effects. They may also give advice on skin care and medicines to manage side effects.
Many cancer centres have specialist cancer nurses, sometimes called clinical nurse specialists (CNSs), who have expert knowledge about your type of cancer. They can also be a good source of support and information during your treatment.
Usually one of the radiographers or nurses who look after you will be named as your key worker. This is the person to contact if you need more information or support. If you’re not sure who your key worker is, ask someone at your next appointment.
Other members of the MDT
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A dietitian can give you advice if you have problems eating and drinking because of your radiotherapy treatment – for example, if you have difficulty swallowing or have a dry mouth. If you’re having problems eating, you can ask one of the radiotherapy staff to refer you to a dietitian.
Speech and language therapists
If the radiotherapy is being given to your mouth and/or neck area, it may temporarily affect your speech. A speech and language therapist will be involved in your recovery and can give you advice and support if your speech or swallowing is affected.
Social workers can give advice about non-medical problems such as practical support and financial help. You can ask to see a social worker if you think this would be helpful.
Symptom control team (palliative care team)
Symptom control teams often support people who are having treatment to control the cancer rather than to cure it. They can help with symptoms due to the cancer or side effects of the treatment.
Counsellors are available in some hospitals. They give emotional support. If you feel that speaking to a counsellor would be helpful, ask the staff looking after you to arrange an appointment.
Some people may see a physiotherapist during their treatment. They can show you exercises to help prevent muscle and joint stiffness.