Ask the Expert – What is the role of the medical dosimetrist in radiation treatment?

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What is a medical dosimetrist?

A medical dosimetrist is a critical member of the radiation oncology team. The dosimetrist’s role is to create a custom treatment plan for each patient to ensure the correct dosage of radiation reaches the tumor while protecting healthy tissue. Patients don’t see us on a daily basis but we are involved in every patient’s treatment.

How do you develop a treatment plan?

We start by performing a CT scan with the patient positioned exactly as they would be for treatment. The scan helps me visualize where the disease is located. Then I use multiple techniques to ‘sculpt’ delivery of radiation to the targeted area and away from critical organs or tissue.

What happens after you create the plan?

It’s reviewed and approved by one of our board-certified radiation oncologists. Our medical physicist double-checks the plan to ensure the linear accelerator will deliver the exact dose prescribed. We perform multiple checks throughout the process to ensure we deliver the safest treatment to every patient. Radiation therapists administer treatment to the patient on a daily basis.

How do you protect healthy tissue from the radiation?

We use multiple techniques, from controlling the angle and intensity of the radiation beam to positioning the patient for treatment. For example, with breast cancer on the left side, it’s important to protect the heart to guard against radiation-related cardiac issues later in life. We have the patient hold a deep breath while the treatment is delivered. It actually pulls the heart away from the treatment area.

What do you like best about working at St. Luke’s Radiation Center?

We have a great team here. We work closely together to achieve the best outcome for our patients. Our goal is to kill the disease but limit side effects the patient may experience.

For more information about St. Luke’s Radiation Center, click here or call (319) 861-6944.

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