Post: Interventional Radiology vs Radiation Oncology: What You Should Know

Interventional Radiology vs Radiation Oncology: What You Should Know

In the medical field, there are many nuances in what people do and why they do it. This is most evident when professionals work in fields in which they are not only trying to help their patients but must also be careful to protect themselves from harm. Two such careers involve radiation; and yet, understanding the difference between interventional radiology vs radiation oncology is crucial in finding the right equipment to protect yourself.

Understanding the Field of Radiology

Insight Radiology describes a radiologist as

a specialist medical doctor, who has had specific postgraduate training in performing and interpreting diagnostic imaging tests and interventional procedures or treatments that involve the use of X-ray, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging equipment.

Radiologists specialize in assisting other professionals in their fields, helping to treat patients through the important first steps: providing a diagnosis and treatment through various medical imaging technologies.Once a doctor has become a radiologist, they have three different specialties to choose from: diagnostic, interventional, and therapeutic (radiation) oncology. This is where we get to the core difference between interventional radiology and radiation oncology.

Interventional Radiology

Interventional Radiology is a medical specialty in which trained doctors use minimally invasive procedures to diagnose and treat various diseases. Interventional Radiologists are trained to use various image-guided technology such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans in order to be able to treat patients. They use these methods to help them guide a catheter into the body, typically in an artery, aiming to treat the disease internally.For example, an Interventional Radiologist will perform an angioplasty, which is a catheter-delivered stent. This method allows patients to be treated without having surgery and offers less risk, less pain, and a faster recovery time to the patient.Because of their delicate and very important work, these board-certified physicians must be at the cutting edge of not only their field but also in the safety they needed. They use imaging in order to perform their work, which includes consistent exposure to radiation.As a result, they not only have to be careful about their own exposure but also to their patients’ exposure. As the Society of Interventional Radiology puts it,

We continue to find new, more sophisticated applications and refine and improve standard treatments to the benefit of patients. The use of radiation, however, is not without risk. As interventional radiologists who use this technology in our daily practice, we are keenly aware of its exceptional benefits and its risks.

Radiation Oncology

This specialization, on the other hand, describes the use of high-energy radiation to damage cancer cells. This radiation penetrates the cancer cells’ DNA, destroying their ability to grow and divide. Once the cells’ ability to reproduce has been eliminated, the body will naturally expel the cells.Cancer cells are more vulnerable to radiation because they rely on rapid multiplication, and are thus unable to repair the damage as fast as healthy cells. Of course, when using this type of radiation therapy, precision is absolutely key. Professionals need to be sure they destroy only the harmful cells and try to limit the impact it has on the surrounding healthy cells.Several different methods exist in the field of Radiation Oncology:

  • External beam radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to target the cancer cells at a tumor site while sparing surrounding, healthy tissue. This is done using a machine that accelerates electrons to produce gamma rays, also called a linear accelerator.
  • Proton therapy is another form of external beam therapy, which works by using charged atoms to destroy the tumor.
  • Other therapies deliver radiation to the inside of the body from an implanted source. This source, whether it be needles, seeds, wires, or catheters, is radioactive and can be temporary or permanently placed inside the body.

Safety For The Doctors and Patients

In both Interventional Radiology and Radiation Oncology, safety is of paramount importance. Any treatment must occur in a very organized way in order to ensure that radiation is only being applied to the appropriate areas and that only the patient is receiving the treatment. This means that doctors must be precautious not only for their patients’ overall health but also for themselves.Patients going through radiation oncology must be very careful because when they are being treated through internal radiation, they can give off radiation. As a result, it’s important to avoid using this treatment method on pregnant women and children younger than 18.Meanwhile, healthcare professionals absolutely need to be diligent. Interventional Radiologists have extensive training in safety, which is needed in order to perform their duties. This training is of the utmost importance because it teaches doctors every detail of the process. Radiation is invisible and without odors, which means potential exposure is difficult to detect. And yet, if not used properly, it can lead to significant health issues.Through proper training and good communication, doctors can reduce their risk of radiation exposure. But of course, proper equipment is also vital to success for the patient and safety. Shielding is the leading way for doctors to help to protect themselves and their staff. That requires wearing protective eyewear, aprons, mobile barriers, and of course including a safe space like specific radiation booths or walls.When you work in either radiation oncology or interventional radiology, you helping to prolong and save lives on a daily basis. For patients that need either one of these treatments, their life can depend on its success. So in order for doctors and patients to successfully complete the process, the environment must be safe so that the treatment can be effective. To learn more about the products we offer to help make these treatments safer for everyone, please contact us.

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