by Thomas A. Buchholz, M.D., FACR, professor and chair, Department of Radiation Oncology and Michael Gillin, Ph.D., FACR professor, Department of Radiation Physics
Radiation treatment plays a critical role in managing cancer, and advances in radiation oncology have been significant and steady since its first clinical application more that 65 years ago. Those of us who specialize in harnessing x-ray and proton energy for the benefit of patients understand the paramount responsibility of safety.
Patients who have received or are currently undergoing radiation treatment know it is not a picnic. It can be a daunting experience with the large equipment, the rigorous daily routines of coming into the clinic for four or six weeks and the lingering side effects that often occur. Patients' clinical teams of radiation oncologists, therapists, nurses and so many others can go a long way in dispelling fears and easing those side effects.
It would be a tragedy for patients, who stand to benefit from radiation therapy, do not take it because of fear stemming from the recent articles in The New York Times.
The Radiation Boom, New York Times
When Radiation Treatment Turns Deadly, New York Times Well Blog
Understandably, patients don't see the expert teams of highly specialized, PhD-level medical physicists, certified dosimetrists and experienced computer specialists who work closely with the patient care teams making sure that equipment is properly commissioned and calibrated at every use, that radiation treatment plans are safe and properly directed, and that therapists are proficient in the delivery of each patient's customized radiation plan.