Radiation oncology: a primer for medical students

J Cancer Educ. 2013 Sep;28(3):547-53. doi: 10.1007/s13187-013-0501-1.


Radiation oncology requires a complex understanding of cancer biology, radiation physics, and clinical care. This paper equips the medical student to understand the fundamentals of radiation oncology, first with an introduction to cancer treatment and the use of radiation therapy. Considerations during radiation oncology consultations are discussed extensively with an emphasis on how to formulate an assessment and plan including which treatment modality to use. The treatment planning aspects of radiation oncology are then discussed with a brief introduction to how radiation works, followed by a detailed explanation of the nuances of simulation, including different imaging modalities, immobilization, and accounting for motion. The medical student is then instructed on how to participate in contouring, plan generation and evaluation, and the delivery of radiation on the machine. Lastly, potential adverse effects of radiation are discussed with a particular focus on the on-treatment patient.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Patient Care Planning*
  • Radiation Oncology / education*
  • Students, Medical*