Physics is essential knowledge for radiation oncology practice. Understanding the physical concepts behind x-ray generation, brachytherapy sources, and beam attenuation allow the radiation oncologist to have a real understanding of the roles of the different tools available.

Physics is best considered in three stages:

  • Foundation: Basic concepts for those just starting out. These should give you a foundation level of knowledge so you can understand the principles behind the function of the machines in radiation oncology
  • Intermediate: Intermediate topics cover most aspects of radiation oncology physics, and are typically examinable in pure physics examinations.
  • Advanced: Applied use of the physics knowledge acquired in the intermediate topics comes with ongoing practice of radiation oncology. These advanced topics integrate physics into everyday practice. Advanced topics also cover the management of physics in the department, as well as new technologies that may not yet be available in most clinics.

Foundation Topics

1: Radiation and Interactions with Matter

The fundamental building blocks of radiation oncology physics. A discussion of the structure of matter (as currently thought) followed by discussion of the various interactions that can occur between photons, electrons and matter.

2: Introduction to Photon Beam Radiotherapy

A brief introduction into the design of simple x-ray tubes, more complex accelerators, and the physical aspects of the beams generated by these devices.

3: Introduction to Electron Beam Radiotherapy

Electrons have replaced superficial and orthovoltage x-ray machines in many departments. Their unique properties makes understanding of their benefits and weaknesses over photons essential.

4: Fundamentals of Radiation Protection

A summary of radiation protection issues which is essential to protect staff and patients from unnecessary exposure to radiation.

5: Fundamental Radiation Quantities and Units

Several important radiation units are defined in this small topic.

Intermediate Topics

6: Radioactivity

7: Imaging Modalities

8: Photon Beam Radiotherapy

9: Electron Beam Radiotherapy

10: Radiation Measuring Devices

11: Treatment Planning and Delivery

12: Brachytherapy

13: Unsealed Sources

14: Radiation Protection

Advanced Topics

These advanced topics are required for practice as a radiation oncologist.

15: Applied External Photon Beam Radiotherapy

16: Applied Electron Beam Radiotherapy

17: Applied Brachytherapy

18: Hadron Beam Radiotherapy

19: Physics in Clinical Practice

20: Quality Assurance and Commissioning

21: Management of Physics in the Department