Radiologists are physicians who work with diagnostic imaging, such as x-rays and CT scans, or treatments that involve radiation. At first glance, these two fields may not seem related. However, many modern imaging techniques involve the use of radiation. There are also several different types of radiologist, including those that specialize in images and those that provide radiation treatment.
Diagnostic radiologists use medical imaging for diagnosing disease. Imaging procedures (such as x-rays, ultrasounds, and MRIs) use energy in the form of sound or radiation to create pictures of internal organs and structures.
Interventional radiologists use imaging for guiding certain minimally invasive medical procedures. A good example of this is the use of x-ray to guide catheters during angioplasty and the placement of stents in narrowed arteries.
Nuclear radiology involves the use of radioactive medication to diagnose or treat disease. Nuclear radiologists use medication that contains very small, safe amounts of radioactive material that can be detected by special machines. This allows them to gather information about how well the body is working. They can also use radioactive medications to treat certain illnesses, such as an overactive thyroid.
Radiation therapy or radiation oncology is the branch of radiology which uses radiation to treat cancer. The radiation is given at a higher dose, but it is very specifically targeted so that it only affects cancer cells.
Radiation, whether used in imaging or for treatment, is a powerful tool. Radiologists have the training and knowledge to use it safely.