Module code: PHYM042

Module Overview

Radiations of various types are widely used for therapeutic purposes. The bulk of hospital physicists work with ionising radiation and hence the topic is fundamental for anyone entering the profession. In this module, an introduction is given to radiotherapy systems, for beam delivery, guidance and dosimetry. Around one-third of the module is then devoted to a number of key uses of non-ionising radiation in delivery of various therapies, with sources based on laser light, uv and high-intensity focused ultrasound.

Module provider

Mathematics & Physics

Module Leader

REGAN Patrick (Maths & Phys)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 114

Seminar Hours: 10

Guided Learning: 8

Captured Content: 18

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

Introduction to Radiotherapy Physics (12 hours)

Lecture 1: Overview of the role of radiotherapy. Interaction of x-rays and electrons with body tissues. Isodose curves and variation with incident radiation energy and modality.

Lecture 2: Operation of x-ray therapy units including kV x-ray units, cobalt-60 teletherapy units and linear accelerators. Features of modern linear accelerators including conformal and intensity modulated radiotherapy.

Lecture 3: Sources of treatment errors and safety features in treatment units. Acceptance and quality control of treatment units. Quality Management Systems, ISO 9001(2000) and quality assurance in radiotherapy.

Lecture 4: Treatment planning techniques for single fields, two fields and multiple fields. Beam modifiers. Conformal radiotherapy and intensity modulated radiotherapy. Brachytherapy: Interstitial and intracavity techniques used, high and low dose rate and after-loading procedures. Dosimetry: Dosimeters employed in radiotherapy; Dosimetry Codes of Practice


Advanced Radiotherapy (6 hours)

Advanced treatment techniques; imaging in radiotherapy; proton and ion beam therapy


Radionuclide Therapy (3 hours)

Molecular radiotherapy; radionuclides employed; dosimetry techniques.


UV Radiation and Blue Light (3 hours)

Introduction - including brief history. Subdividing the UV spectrum - UVA, -B, -C. Effects of UVR on humans - including effects on skin and eye and photosensitivity. Sources of UVR - including lamps used in medicine & medical applications; radiation protection surveys. Other sources of UVR - sunbeds, uses in offices, industry, research, sunlight. UV measurements - thermal and photon detectors, spectroradiometer. Quantities and units. Proper matching of source, detector and biological effect. Calibration. The session covers the properties, sources, hazards and uses of ultraviolet radiation, mainly in medicine but also in everyday life where of interest from a non-ionising radiation protection viewpoint.


Ultrasound Therapies (3 hours)

Introduction to the use of focused ultrasound delivered at intensities sufficient for therapeutic needs. Ultrasonic therapies, to be discussed include: High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU), lithotripsy and hyperthermia. Beam control and dosimetry.


Lasers in Medicine (3 hours)

Introductory brief review of basic laser physics and the biophysical processes involved in the interaction of laser light with biological tissues. The photothermal, photochemical, photomechanical and photoablative effects of laser light are considered with reference to the underlying physical principles behind the therapeutic uses of laser light. Basic laser safety is introduced and simple mathematical models used to describe the laser ablation and coagulation of soft tissues.

Practical at Radiotherapy Department, Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth

Practical including calibration of a linear accelerator or other treatment unit following appropriate dosimetry code of practice; treatment planning demonstration.

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework COURSEWORK (2000 WORDS ESSAY) 30
Examination End of Semester Examination (2 hours) 70

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to:

  • Provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the concepts behind therapy physics.

  • Allow them to demonstrate their capability to apply this knowledge to real-life scenarios and research on a specialist topic.


Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • An essay based on a choice of radiotherapy topics. Submission takes place in or around week 6.

  • Formal 2 hr end-of-semester examination. Students will be asked to answer 2 out of 3 questions on Therapeutic Applications using Ionising Radiation and 1 out of 2 questions on Therapeutic Applications using Non-Ionising Radiation. 


Formative assessment

Opportunities for formative assessment will be given under the form of non-marked problems.



Students receive written feedback on coursework and opportunity for verbal feedback during scheduled tutorials on any areas where there are gaps in understanding.


Module aims

  • To achieve an understanding of medical irradiating sources and apparatus in terms of system components and their performance and to relate these to treatment needs for a variety of conditions. To give the student a broad overview of the techniques used to provide for various therapies.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Describe the general principles and key technologies that determine the performance of medical irradiating sources and systems and employ that knowledge in critically appraising the appropriate choice of such systems in different applied situations. KCP
002 Describe the physical principles and key technologies in the use of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation for therapeutic applications and be able to conceptualise the physical basis behind observed phenomena KC
003 Describe and critique the quality assurance cycle required for these facilities. PT
004 Use this knowledge in applied clinical settings when taking up posts within the Health Service and other related fields. PT
005 Demonstrate an ability to use physics techniques and principles in a practical, multidisciplinary context within the clinical environment KPT
006 Demonstrate an ability to identify and evaluate the risks involved in a particular application and propose solutions for addressing these. KPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

  • Provide students with the theoretical foundations of different modalities of radiotherapy.

  • Allow them to gain an understanding of the practical and quality assurance aspects of radiotherapy.


The learning and teaching methods include:

  • 33 hours of lectures, including both theoretical aspects and their application. Teaching is given via handouts, projection and white board presentations.

  • A practical session at the Radiotherapy Department at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth.

  • One large group tutorial/question session.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: PHYM042

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Medical Physics MSc 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Physics MSc 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2023/4 academic year.