Radiation Oncologist

Radiation oncologists are healthcare providers who oversee cancer treatment involving radiation. Radiation is one of the most powerful ways to treat cancer. Radiation oncologists are highly trained specialists who manage treatment from start to finish. They develop tailored treatment plans, oversee treatment and ease its side effects.

What is a radiation oncologist?

Radiation oncologists are specially-trained healthcare providers who treat cancer with radiation therapy, one of the most powerful ways providers treat and often cure cancer.

What does a radiation oncologist do?

They oversee all aspects of radiation oncology treatment. Radiation oncologists:

  • Decide whether you’d benefit by having radiation therapy. If so, they’ll decide which type of radiation therapy is the best option for the kind of cancer you have.
  • Explain your radiation therapy options, including how each option works to treat cancer.
  • Design your radiation treatment plan, which includes setting the specific radiation dosage that’ll destroy cancerous cells without harming nearby healthy tissue.
  • Discuss and explain your treatment plan, including the treatment process and treatment side effects.
  • Oversee all treatment, working with a team of healthcare providers who specialize in radiation therapy.
  • Help you to manage radiation therapy side effects.

What education do you need to become a radiation oncologist?

Radiation oncologists complete the following educational and other requirements:

  • Four years of college.
  • Four years of medical school.
  • One year of clinical training in internal medicine or surgery.
  • Four years of training (residency) in radiation oncology.
  • Continuing certification from the American Board of Radiology.


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Why would I need to see a radiation oncologist?

More than half of all people with cancer will receive some type of radiation therapy, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncologists. You may also see this specialist if you have a noncancerous tumor.

What common cancer types are treated with radiation therapy?

Healthcare providers use radiation treatment for most kinds of cancer, including the three most common ones:

What happens at my first appointment with a radiation oncologist?

Your first visit with your radiation oncologist is a chance for them to get to know you. They’ll review your records and reports and do a physical examination. Then, they’ll talk with you about your type of cancer, their radiation treatment recommendations and treatment side effects. They’ll answer your questions about the process and get your consent to go ahead with treatment.

What questions should I ask my radiation oncologist?

Here are some questions you may want to ask:

  • What type of radiation will I receive?
  • What are the possible side effects?
  • Where will I have treatment?
  • How long will my sessions take?
  • How many treatments will I need?
  • Are there any restrictions before, during or after treatment, like eating right before my treatment?
  • How flexible is the treatment schedule?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Radiation therapy is one of the most powerful tools available to treat and sometimes cure cancer. Radiation oncologists are highly trained specialists who oversee this treatment, deciding if it’s right for you, guiding your treatment and supporting you throughout. Receiving radiation therapy can be an intimidating experience. You’re likely to have a lot of questions about what to expect. Your radiation oncologists understand why you may feel that way. They’ll always take time to answer questions, explain procedures and do everything they can to make radiation therapy as easy as possible.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 08/04/2023.

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