There are three primary medical specialties involved in cancer treatment: surgical oncology, medical oncology and radiation oncology. Radiation oncologists are specialist physicians with training in the use of ionizing radiation (including radionuclides and/or megavoltage X-rays) for the treatment of neoplastic diseases (cancer) and some benign diseases (benign tumors). They are integrally involved in the creation and execution of treatment plans for cancer patients.
To become a radiation oncologist, a physician typically undergoes 3-5 years of medical residency including a year of internship. They work closely with radiologist technicians and medical physicists, as well as other physicians such as medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, interventional radiologists, and internal medicine subspecialists as part of the multidisciplinary cancer team.
Radiation oncologists are responsible for assessing individual patients, organizing imaging and other tests, determining and creating management plans, monitoring patients during and after treatment, and assessing progress. They may use external beam radiation therapy (generated by a linear accelerator), proton therapy, or radioactive sources put inside the patient, known as brachytherapy, in which radioactive sources are sealed in needles, seeds, catheters or wires, and they are implanted directly into or near a tumor for treatment, either temporarily or permanently.