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What is the Difference Between a Radiologist and a Radiographer?

What is a radiologist?

A radiologist, typically, is a physician who has been trained after medical school and through residency, in how to interpret and perform radiology examinations. However, the word “imaging” is used increasingly these days. These physicians often complete a fellowship — one to two additional years of specialized training in a particular sub-specialty of radiology, such as breast imaging, cardiovascular radiology or nuclear medicine. Radiologist physicians are usually board certified by the American Board of Radiology (for a doctor of medicine) or the American Osteopathic Board of Radiology (for an osteopathic doctor); an indication of a high level of training and demonstrated excellence in the field.

Radiological procedures are medically prescribed and should only be conducted by appropriately trained and certified physicians under medically necessary circumstances. Radiologist physicians have four to six years of unique, specific, post–medical school training that includes radiation safety and ensures the optimal performance of radiological procedures and interpretation of medical images. They usually collaborate with other doctors to help define medical conditions as opposed to treating patients directly.

What is a radiographer?

A radiographer, traditionally referred to as a technologist, is responsible for acquiring the images. Like radiologists, radiographers can choose from a number of sub-specialties. These include neuroradiology, musculoskeletal radiology, nuclear radiology and cardiovascular radiology. Vascular, endovascular and interventional radiology are different from other specialties, because radiologists in these areas treat patients directly.

Radiography is an allied profession in the medical world that requires skills in operating these machines and taking radio images of different body parts of patients. It is an integral part of the medical profession in modern times as it is on the basis of these radio images that radiologists come to a conclusion about the state of a patient. Radiography does not require as much training as radiology and in the United States, all it takes is a high school diploma plus a two-year vocational training to become a radiographer.

Of course this difference in training and skills is also reflected in the income difference of a radiologist and a radiographer. If a radiographer has been trained to perform an ultrasound, he or she may be called a sonographer. If you have an interventional procedure (such as an angiogram or biopsy) a radiographer will be part of the team looking after you. Some radiographers are also involved in giving radiotherapy treatment to cancer patients.

What is radiotherapy?

Radiotherapy uses high energy rays to treat a disease. It can be given both externally and internally. Radiotherapy works by destroying cancer cells in the area that’s being treated. Normal cells can also be damaged by radiotherapy, which may cause side effects. Cancer cells cannot repair themselves after radiotherapy, but normal cells usually can. You can be given radiotherapy for different reasons. Doctors can give radiotherapy to try and destroy a tumor and cure cancer. This is called curative treatment. It may be used with other treatments, such as surgery or chemotherapy.

If it’s not possible to cure the cancer, doctors may give you radiotherapy to help relieve any symptoms you have. This is called palliative treatment. As we’ve added new modalities like ultrasound and MRI, radiologists have become interchangeable with medical imagers, who are typically physicians who have complete radiology training. A technologist or ultrasonographer are very often other medical professionals who are considered equivalent to what a traditional radiographer does.