How to Become a Radiation Oncologist

A radiation oncologist treats patients suffering from various forms of cancers by using radiation treatment. Radiation oncology, in which a radiation oncologist specializes, is a special branch of medicine that applies radiant energy to burn or destroy the malign (Cancerous) cell tissues. As a radiation oncologist, you administer radiation therapy using x-rays, electrons or gamma rays to the cancer patients. Thus, depending on various factors, you shoulder the responsibility of deciding proper amount of radiation for each cancer patient.

How to Become a Radiation Oncologist

To become a radiation oncologist, you must possess expertise both in Radiobiology and Radio-physics. Thus, if you are a medical student with a knack for either medical physics or scientific research, radiation oncology might suit you.

Educational / Training Requirements

  • Graduation in science or biological science.
  • A 5 years residency program in radiation oncology. The program includes intensive training periods comprising of internship, assignments, lectures, case presentation and many other things.
  • After residency, it is essential to get certified through American Board of Radiology. To obtain the certification, you have to complete written examinations of clinical, radiobiology and physics papers. Apart from these written papers you have to clear the oral examination too. This certificate is valid only for 10 years, and to renew the certification, you have to apply to Board for the Maintenance of Certification by attending the required examination.

Tips for Advancement

After you have started your career as a radiation oncologist, you can select a field to specialize in order to advance your career. There are various fields within this radiation oncology. A few worth mentioning are - Gynecologic Oncology, Pediatrics Oncology, and Central Nervous system Radiation among others. There are sub specializations in the methods of treatments too. Different methods of radio-treatments are widely employed by radiation oncologists like Brachy Therapy, Breast Brachy Therapy, Charged Particle Therapy, Radio Surgery, and Intensity Modulated Therapy.

To specialize in one of the branches of radiotherapy, you have to complete a fellowship program in particularly chosen field. This program can be for 1 to 2 years. These programs train you to develop clinical skills, hone professionalism, and develop expertise in the field of medicine. Other things you should continually do for better advancement opportunities include -

  • Work on becoming more amiable towards patients.
  • Keep yourself abreast with latest technological advancements.
  • Develop a rapport with the terminally ill patients and help them deal with side effects of radio therapies.
  • Indoctrinate hopes in the minds of terminally ill cancer patients.
  • Improve your ability to work with multi-disciplinary team.

Earnings and Work Life

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of a radiation oncologist was about $303,750 in 2008. Unlike other medical or health service professionals, radiation oncologists need not attend to patients during emergencies. This is because; radiation therapy sessions are pre-planned and are recommended to patients only after the consulting doctor approves it. Thus, in spite of being in a health care profession, you can expect to have regular work timings.