Radiologic technology includes a variety of diagnostic and therapeutic careers. Technologists who use radiation to treat illnesses such as cancer are called radiation therapists or radiation therapy technologists, and are usually educated in four year programs leading to the bachelor's degree. The majority of radiologic technologists work in diagnostic imaging and are called diagnostic radiographers or medical radiographers Many radiographers work in specialty areas such as computed tomography, cardiovascular imaging, mammography, and Magnetic Resonance Imaging.
General diagnostic radiographers are educated in two-year or four-year programs and work in hospitals, imaging centers and medical offices. They use ionizing radiation to produce images of all parts of the body on film or a digital monitor. When you have a cough or sprain your ankle, your doctor may send you for an x-ray examination which will be performed by a diagnostic radiographer. Because ionizing radiation poses a possible risk,these technologists must be well trained in radiation protection principles, as well as anatomy and equipment operation.
Many radiographers continue their educations in order to specialize in a particular diagnostic area. One modality which is widely used is computed tomograpy (CT), in which the technologist uses a moving x-ray beam to produce cross-sectional or three-dimensional images of the body.
Other radiographers may specialize in mammography, which is radiography of the breast. Mammography is widely used for screening healthy patients for breast cancer.
Radiographers may also work in cardiovascular imaging, where they perform examinations of the heart and circulatory system. These examinations require the injection of a contrast medium into the patient's bloodstream, followed by rapid, precise imaging.
One diagnostic imaging modality which does not use ionizing radiation is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). It provides longitudinal or cross-sectional images by using radio waves and a strong magnetic field. This modality is particularly helpful in visualizing the soft tissues of the body.