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This content is taken from the Trinity College Dublin's online course, An Introduction to Radiation Oncology: From Diagnosis to Survivorship. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 5 secondsI am delighted to welcome you to this online course, From Diagnosis to Survivorship, an introduction to radiation oncology. My name is Claire Poole, and I'm an assistant professor and head of clinical education in the discipline of radiation therapy, Trinity College Dublin. I'm a specialist in radiation therapy who conducts research and works with experts worldwide to educate students and the public on the role of radiation oncology and the treatment of cancer. Hello. My name is Michelle Leech, and I'm an associate professor and head of the discipline of radiation therapy here at Trinity College in Dublin.

Skip to 0 minutes and 39 secondsTogether with Clare, our expert international colleagues and patient advocates, Julie McCrossin and Róisín Whelan, I'm looking forward to sharing with you information about radiation oncology, navigating the treatment pathway, and dispelling any myths that you may have heard about radiation oncology as a cancer treatment. Cancer is a disease that affects many families, and is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality globally. The World Health Organisation report that, over the next 20 years, the number of new cases is to rise by 70% worldwide.

Skip to 1 minute and 11 secondsModern radiation oncology is used as a treatment to cure cancer across many sites in the human body, and it is an effective treatment that can accurately and safely treat a majority of cancer patients through individualised patient treatment plans. This means that the treatment is tailored to each individual person, and depends on each person's needs. In this free two-week online course, we will look at the role of radiation oncology in the treatment of cancer patients. It is targeted towards patients, family members, and health care professionals interested in radiation therapy. This will include how advances in new technologies have improved patient care and quality of life.

Skip to 1 minute and 50 secondsTo fully understand the role of radiation oncology in the treatment of cancer patients, we will explain the proven benefits of radiation therapy in the overall management of the major cancer sites. We will debunk the common misconceptions in radiation oncology, and explain how safe radiation oncology is in treating cancer patients. We will describe the patient pathway to radiation oncology, and then through the radiation therapy department. As with any treatment modality, there are advances being made all the time. We will describe the new developments in radiation oncology, and look at how these will influence the management of patients in the future.

Skip to 2 minutes and 29 secondsOver the next two weeks, we will take you on a journey through radiation oncology, where you will hear previous patient stories, and discover how radiation therapy is a safe and effective method of cancer therapy. In week one, we will explore what is meant by radiation oncology, investigate the common myths that surround it, examine its safety as a treatment, meet two patients and hear their personal journeys, and listen to key people involved in the patient treatment pathway. In week two, we will focus on the scientific basis of radiation oncology. We will learn about the different types of radiation and how it is delivered.

Skip to 3 minutes and 3 secondsAs with any cancer treatment, there are side effects associated with radiation therapy, and we will hear about how these manifest, from a radio biologist, and about how they affect patients, from former patients themselves. We will explain the care given to patients throughout treatment and also when treatment is complete. We will review and discuss the many support services that are available to patients and their families. Finally, we will look at the way forward with new technologies and treatment advances in radiation oncology. We hope you enjoy this course, and we look forward to reading your comments.

Welcome to the course

Welcome to the first week of this two-week course on An Introduction to Radiation Oncology: From Diagnosis to Survivorship. This course is for cancer patients and family members who are interested in learning more about radiation therapy as a treatment for cancer. Healthcare professionals, who may work with cancer patients, are also very welcome to this course.

Before we start, we would like to introduce the course team from Trinity College Dublin.

Michelle Leech
Michelle Leech is Associate Professor and Head of the Discipline of Radiation Therapy. Michelle is past Chair of the European Society of Radiotherapy and Oncology Radiation Therapist Committee, Head of Blended Learning at ESTRO and is Co-editor in chief of Technical Innovations and Patient Support in Radiation Oncology. Michelle collaborates with the International Atomic Energy Agency in raising the standard of radiation therapy practice globally and has completed many expert missions on their behalf throughout eastern Europe, Bangladesh and Israel. Michelle’s research interests are in quantitative analysis of routine imaging for radiation therapy practice and in advocating for radiation oncology as a cancer therapy. She sits on the editorial board of Radiotherapy and Oncology and is reviewer for ten leading radiation oncology and imaging journals.
Michelle Leech
Claire Poole
Claire is an Assistant Professor and Head of Clinical Education in the Discipline of Radiation Therapy, Trinity College Dublin. Claire is a specialist in radiation therapy who conducts research and works with experts worldwide to educate students and the public on the role of radiation oncology in the treatment of cancer. Claire is a committee member of the European Society of Radiotherapy and Oncology school of pedagogy and an executive committee member of Irish Network of Healthcare Educators (INHED). Claire’s research focuses on advocating for radiation oncology as a treatment for cancer and optimal patient care.
Claire Poole

We will be introducing you to members of the radiation therapy team. You will learn about their roles, and how they work together to give radiation therapy to cancer patients.

Images of the radiation therapy team

The academics may not be able to respond to all of your queries, so feel free to address questions to other learners in the discussion section below. The discussion section is moderated to make sure comments are in line with FutureLearn’s Code of Conduct. If you experience a problem accessing any of the content or links, please let us know by clicking the pink “Support” button on the bottom right of the screen.

As Michelle and Claire have talked about in the video, this course will be exploring radiation oncology, from diagnosis to survivorship.

Week 1: Setting the scene

In Week 1, we will be:

  • Giving an overview of radiation oncology and its role in cancer treatment
  • Exploring common misconceptions about radiation oncology
  • Describing safety and effectiveness of radiation therapy as a treatment
  • Outlining the patient pathway and journey through radiation therapy
  • Introducing the key team members who you will meet during radiation therapy
  • Using 3D visualisations of radiation therapy treatment

Week 2: Treatment

In Week 2, we will go into more detail on specific cancers and treatments. We will be:

  • Exploring the scientific basis underpinning radiation oncology
  • Describing treatment for head and neck, and prostate cancer
  • Explaining side effects from radiation therapy
  • Giving information about survivorship and other supports available to patients and families
  • Describing new developments in radiation oncology

During each week you will be asked to complete some multiple choice questions to help you reflect on the course materials. For those of you who would like to gain a certificate, we have a test at the end of the course for you to complete.

At the end of this course you will be able to

  • Comment on the role of radiation oncology in managing cancer
  • Identify the radiation therapy patient pathway
  • Recognise the roles of the health care professionals involved in radiation therapy
  • Discuss the safe use of radiation therapy in cancer care
  • Explain the basic science behind radiation therapy
  • Describe state of the art radiation therapy, such as personalised medicine
  • Discuss upcoming biological and technological developments in radiation therapy

Before you start

We would also encourage you to follow Michelle and Claire’s comments by clicking on their profile pages, and selecting Follow. This means that when you click on the Activity tab at the top of the page, you will see their comments under the Following section.

Your first task

Now that we have introduced the course, we would like you to introduce yourself to your fellow learners. Click on the comment section below and write a short comment.

  • Share with us why you are interested in radiation therapy
  • Are you a patient, carer, family member or healthcare professional?
  • Where are you logging in to this course from?

After you have written your comment, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the pink ‘Mark as Complete’ button. Move to the next step ‘How to use Futurelearn’ by clicking on the arrow.

Course note: Individuals and pathologies vary greatly. None of the opinions discussed as part of this course are designed, nor intended to be an offer to treat, prescribe or give advice to individuals with cancer or any other pathologies. The research, opinions and content presented throughout the course should in no circumstance be solely relied upon by any learner. If a learner is suffering from a particular health condition being discussed during the course, they should always seek medical advice from a qualified practitioner.

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This video is from the free online course:

An Introduction to Radiation Oncology: From Diagnosis to Survivorship

Trinity College Dublin