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: 98

Lecture Hours: 22

Seminar Hours: 6

Practical/Performance Hours: 4

Guided Learning: 10

Captured Content: 10

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

Introduction to Radiotherapy Physics

Interaction of x-rays and electrons with body tissues. Isodose curves and variation with incident radiation energy and modality. 
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. 
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. 
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 

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

Radionuclide Therapy 

Molecular radiotherapy; radionuclides employed; dosimetry techniques.

UV Radiation and Blue Light 

The UV spectrum - UVA, -B, -C. Effects of UVR on humans. Sources of UVR. UV measurements and hazards.

Ultrasound Therapies

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

Laser physics and the biophysical processes involved in the interaction of laser light with biological tissues. Photothermal, photochemical, photomechanical and photoablative effects of laser light. Basic laser safety.

Practical at a Radiotherapy Department

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
Oral exam or presentation Presentation 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:

  • A presentation on an assigned topic in an area of advancement in therapy physics.

  • 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 therapy with ionising and non-ionising radiation.

  • Allow them to gain an understanding of the practical and quality assurance aspects of each treatment modality.

The learning and teaching methods include:

  • Lectures, including both theoretical aspects and their application. Teaching is given via handouts, projection and white board presentations.

  • Q&A/feedback sessions with hospital physicists.

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

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

Other information

Employability: The module introduces students to treatment modalities used in clinical practice. Students will have the opportunity to see clinical equipment and its quality assurance procedures, to appraise the impact of different beam qualities on dose distribution and to use treatment planning software. This will enhance their employability in a clinical or industrial setting.

Digital capabilities: Students will gain an understanding of the role of computers in treatment planning. They will have the opportunity to use commercial treatment planning software in simulations. 

Sustainability: A key focus of the module is the appraisal of different treatment modalities from a theoretical and practical point of view. This also includes costs and applicability of each specific modality in the practical context of clinical workflow.

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 2024/5 academic year.