Chalynn Balas was first inspired to learn more about the PET technologist career as a teenager, when her grandpa was diagnosed with prostate cancer and she would take him to his radiation and imaging appointments.
"Seeing technologists provide a positive experience for him was inspiring to me," she says. "I wanted to be a part of other patients' experiences in helping them feel seen and heard during their own cancer journeys."
Last month, Balas started working as a PET technologist at BC Cancer in Kelowna.
This week, she's one of the medical radiation technologists (MRT) being recognized for the essential role she plays in the health-care system during MRT Week, as Proclaimed in the B.C. Legislature. This year, MRT Week runs Nov. 5 to 11.
MRTs deliver professional imaging and radiation-related treatment services with a caring touch, allowing patients to fully benefit from the latest in medical diagnostic and treatment technology. At BC Cancer, MRTs include radiological technologists, nuclear medicine technologists and radiation therapists.
PET technologists like Balas are responsible for all aspects of clinical PET/CT scanning, including image acquisition, data reconstruction and image review for diagnostic quality prior to patient release. PET technologists prepare patients for the procedure, monitor their vital signs and administer radiopharmaceuticals. The position entails vigilant radiation safety practices and the operation and quality control of PET/CT systems.
Felicity Galang decided to pursue a career in medical radiation therapy after volunteering giving patients books to read on the oncology ward.
"I felt that I wanted to help these patients more," she says. "Radiation therapy allowed me to do that."
She's been working as a radiation therapist at BC Cancer in Abbotsford since July 2022.
"I love getting to know my patients during their treatments and that I am able to make patients' cancer journeys a little less stressful and scary," she says.
"I am passionate about doing whatever I can to make patients more comfortable when they're under my care – whether that's playing their favorite music, giving them an extra warm blanket, or simply just listening to them. Often patients are so appreciative, and that is so rewarding."
Radiation therapists provide radiation services and patient care in accordance with established policies and standards of professional practice for radiation therapy. Across all six regional centres, a group of more than 350 radiation therapists deliver the latest in treatment technologies while providing education, support and reassurance to patients.
Maddy Davison opted for a career as a radiological technologist because she, like Galang, sought a hands-on approach to patient care.
Radiological technologists produce images of body parts and systems by performing exams in general X-ray, CT, breast imaging, interventional, and operating room procedures. They are experts in the operation of complex medical radiation equipment, while providing comprehensive, compassionate care to each patient.
Davison worked in X-ray starting in 2017 and mammography in 2018, working in Kamloops, Kelowna and now in the Kootenays, providing X-rays as well as diagnostic mammography in Trail, in addition to helping out on the mobile screening van when it's in the area.
"What I love most about being a mammographer are the patients," Davison says.
"Getting to develop a rapport with these women and knowing I am directly involved in their health and wellness is an honour to me. My goal every day is to turn what can be an uncomfortable and stressful exam into a pleasant experience."
In one instance, she followed a patient's entire breast cancer journey, from her screening mammogram, to her diagnostic workup, her biopsy and her one year post-surgical mammogram.
"I was able to develop a strong rapport and provide more personalized care to this woman, which is what got me into mammography in the first place," Davison says.
Ruby Gidda, executive director of Provincial Professional Practice for Nursing and Allied Health and of BC Cancer - Abbotsford says she couldn't be more proud of the meaningful work that medical radiation technologists contribute in assisting individuals with cancer.
"It is heartening to know that people who are likely coping with physical discomfort and anxiety about their future encounter many medical radiation technologists who treat them with such care," says Gidda.
"BC Cancer has experienced recent successes in recruiting additional radiation therapists and I encourage anyone who's interested to explore training this field."