A Day in the Life of a Medical Radiation Therapist

“We are all very passionate and friendly here,” said Kristy Peters, medical radiation therapist at the PEI Cancer Treatment Centre. “You can often hear us on the intercom while patients are receiving their treatment, and we do whatever we can to make them comfortable. I’ve sung to people, I’ve read books, and I’ve talked about the weather. We’ll do anything we can to help them through the tough moments. I’m not a good singer, but I will sing.”

Medical radiation technologists (MRTs) in Radiation Therapy have a unique blend of technology and advanced skills, as well as patient support skills. They plan and deliver the radiation treatment plan prescribed by the radiation oncologist. MRTs provide a radiation dose once a day for however many days prescribed.

“I always loved helping people,” said Kristy. “When I was young, I had a close family member go through a cancer experience. This led me to being naturally interested in cancer care and has driven me to help. That’s where my joy comes from, helping to explain things to people, being a support system for people, and helping comfort them as they go through their cancer journey.”

When chemotherapy goes through the whole body, it’s called systemic treatment. Radiation therapy is a targeted treatment. MRTs plan and deliver the treatment to get the highest dose to the target while limiting the dose to the surrounding tissue. What they do is called external beam radiation therapy, which goes from the source, through the normal tissue, to the targeted area. The goal is to damage cancer cell DNA while limiting the dose to the healthy cell DNA so healthy cells can rebound and cancer cells can die off. That’s why treatments are done daily to allow this balance.

“We capture the patient’s anatomy and create marker tattoos, so we know where to line everything up,” explained Kristy. “Many of us get the tattoos ourselves during our training so we can show patients exactly what they look like before they receive theirs. Then we determine how to deliver the treatment because radiation is so targeted.

With cancer, you can experience pain and suffering, and MRTs focus on providing patients with the help they need. They always try to keep their minds in an open and positive mindset.

“We develop a great relationship with patients, providing them comfort and support. It could be as simple as explaining something in a clear way that the patient didn’t understand. You can almost see the relief on their faces when you are able to fill in a gap,” said Kristy. “For many, it is the unknowns that are the most difficult. It can feel like an insurmountable thing to be diagnosed with cancer, but a large part of the battle is knowing your pathway. Once you understand that part, it can make things easier.”

Kristy feels that her role as an MRT has opened her eyes and has taught her to appreciate the little things.

“It gives you a unique insight,” said Kristy. “I hug my kids. I always try to show my family and friends how much I love and appreciate them. I try not to take any day for granted. I’ve had the privilege to help a lot of people through their experiences, and all you can do is listen, learn, and take advantage of every day because none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.”

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Published date: 
June 27, 2024
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