Radiologist, huh? What is a radiologist? How does this affect my life?
Sometimes, we are asked these questions (verbally or with questioning looks) and no matter what, we are happy to answer.
First off, a radiologist is a medical doctor, going through 4 years of medical school after getting an undergraduate college degree. Just like other doctors, we have a specialty focus. Some doctors focus on a body area (ear, nose and throat) or others on a particular disease (oncologists treat cancer). We focus on imaging and imaging guided procedures of the whole body.
After medical school a radiologist will do specialized training (residency and/or fellowships) from 4 to 7 additional years. Many of us are subspecialized within radiology, which includes one or two additional training years in sections such as neuroradiology, mammography, musculoskeletal imaging or body imaging. We get to see the inner workings of the body, seeing the anatomy of how you are put together and how things work (or don’t work!).
How is it that we image people? Radiology covers many types of imaging. We look inside the human body using many different types of tools, depending upon the body part and on the presenting problem. Our tools include x-ray, ultrasound, MRI, CT scans, mammography, PET scans and nuclear medicine. This requires knowledge of things like radiation and electromagnetic fields. Most of the images are taken by special techs (radiology technologists) who work under our guidance. Our job then is to carefully interpret the images and answer the question that sent you for imaging. For other procedures, the radiologist may be directly involved in getting the images or in performing often life-saving interventions guided by imaging.
How does radiology affect you and your life? Our ability to see in the human body has revolutionized medicine. We can find problems microscopic and large, and help guide treatment options with your referring physician. Where once surgery was needed to explore and find the cause of symptoms, imaging has allowed medicine to refine that approach, leading to better care for you.
So, even if you don’t meet your radiologist face to face, know that there is a careful, dedicated, well-educated individual whose sole focus is you and your images. That’s a radiologist!
Image credit: Title: Radiologist Examines Chest X-rays; Source: National Cancer Institute; Public Domain
Originally published 6/6/13 on diagnosticimagingcenterskc.com.