How Does It Work
All cells in the body go through a specific process of cell division. Cancer cells are abnormal and can divide more quickly than they are supposed to. Chemotherapy is medication that works by stopping cells as they are dividing. As cell division is interrupted, the cancer cells cant continue to grow.
Chemotherapy is absorbed into the entire system. It can affect cancer cells throughout the body, not just one localized area.
Chemotherapy And Radiation Therapy What Are The Differences
What Is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy, or chemo, is a process in which drugs are used to treat cancer.
It is a systemic treatment working through the whole body to prevent the spread of the disease. The drug used will vary depending on the type and stage of cancer as well as the patients age and health. The goal of chemotherapy is to stop the spread of cancer to other parts of the body.
Chemotherapy is administered by a medical oncology health professional, typically a nurse or doctor. Chemo can be delivered as an outpatient procedure, in a hospital, a doctors office, or even at home in any of the following ways:
- Injection into muscle, vein, or artery
- Injection into the body
- Direct skin application
Chemotherapy side effects
Chemo side effects vary depending on the type and amount of chemotherapy drug used and how the body reacts to it. Because chemotherapy drugs travel through the body, they can also impact healthy cells, leading to a variety of side effects.
Chemo is designed to kill fast-growing cancer cells, but this can sometimes lead to side effects involving the bodys other, healthy fast-growing cells.
- Blood forming cells in the bone marrow
- Cells in the mouth, digestive and reproductive tract
Some chemo drugs can damage cells in the heart, kidneys, bladder, lungs, and nervous system. Your doctor monitors you closely and may prescribe medicines to protect your bodys normal cells. There are also medicines to help relieve side effects.
What Is Radiation Therapy?
How To Protect Your Skin During Radiation Therapy
Skin changes are a side effect of receiving radiation, and you may need to take extra steps to protect it. Some ways to do this include:
- Avoid wearing tight clothing or elastic over the area where youre receiving treatment.
- Use only paper tape on the affected area and avoid adhesive tapes.
- Avoid scratching, scrubbing, and rubbing the area.
- Talk with your doctor before using a heating pad or ice pack at the site.
- Talk with your doctor about using sunscreen on the spot to further protect it from sunlight.
- Use only mild soap and lukewarm water when cleaning the area while avoiding scrubbing.
- Talk with your doctor before shaving the area.
- Ask your doctor before applying any substance, such as creams, perfumes, or deodorants, on the spot.
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Radiation Therapy And Chemotherapy: The Difference Between These Most Common Cancer Treatments
Cancer is a complex disease to treat. Because this is a disease that affects the genetic make-up of the body’s smallest structural and functional units, its cells, treatment varies a great deal between types of cancer, and even from one person to another. The human body has an estimated 37.2 trillion cells, so you can imagine the diversity in cancers, and as such, treatments to help cure them.
To offer the best possible outcomes in overcoming a cancer journey, a multidisciplinary team of doctors and cancer specialists must collaborate and personalize the safest and most effective treatment plan for you. And this is what the AdventHealth Cancer Institute does each and every day, for each and every patient that it serves.
While chemotherapy and radiation therapy are the most common types of cancer treatment used in combination, with other treatments, or singularly in patients’ treatment plans, the specific course of these treatments is always tailored to the individual based on a whole-health approach in body, mind and spirit.
But it still helps to understand the basics of what chemotherapy and radiation therapy are, and how they differ in their process and effects on the body. Let’s explore them.
What Is Radiation
Radiation is a high-energy invisible light wave. Because it has a lot of energy, it can be directed at cancer cells to damage their genetic material, ultimately killing them.
The radiation waves damage the cancer cells, which die over time and are removed by the body, causing the tumor to shrink. This process can continue for weeks or even months after treatment is over.
Radiation is used in many ways as a cancer treatment. The goal of radiation is usually to slow the growth of, shrink, or destroy a cancerous tumor.
The radiation is applied in one of two ways. Internal radiation is an injection of radiation in a solid or liquid into the tumor or nearby tissues. External beam radiation is the application of radiation from a beam generated by a machine outside the body.
External beam radiation and solid internal radiation injections are local treatmentsmeaning the radiation is applied only at the site of a primary or secondary tumor, not throughout the whole body.
On the other hand, internal liquid radiation treatments act systemicallythe radiation travels throughout your body. As a result, these treatments can damage cancer cells that have spread away from visible tumors, reducing the likelihood that cancer will spread or come back after other local treatments like surgery.
The type of radiation used in your treatment plan depends on your cancer type, how large the tumor is, where it is located in the body, and your general health and treatment history.
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How Do They Work
Chemotherapy uses medicines that travel through the blood, going throughout your body. It is called a systemic therapy because it can kill cells throughout your body, not just in one area of the body. Chemotherapy targets cells that grow and divide quickly. Cancer cells grow more rapidly than many healthy cells. Because of this, chemotherapy has a greater effect on cancer cells. However, the medicines are powerful and can damage healthy cells too. Chemotherapy is delivered as an infusion into a vein through an IV needle or port, by mouth in a pill or in an injection, like a shot would be given.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams instead of medicines. Radiation is a local treatment. This means that, unlike chemotherapy, it treats a specific area of the body where the cancer is located. Radiation therapy is delivered using a machine that produces high-energy beams directed at the tumor or internally with radioactive material placed inside your body, close to the tumor.
Types Of Radiation Therapy
Radiation can be administered in two ways: internally or externally:
External: External beam radiation is delivered from a machine. It is very similar to receiving a chest X-ray. Most people are treated five days a week for one to 10 weeks, depending on the type and location of cancer, their overall health, and other factors. The treatment only takes a few minutes, and is not generally given over the weekend.
You will be asked to lie flat on a treatment table, under the radiation machine. Other parts of your body may be protected with special shields or blocks to prevent the radiation from going to those areas.
External treatments include:
- 3D conformal radiation therapy after the tumor is mapped through imaging, beams of radiation treat the cancerous tumor.
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy gives the radiation oncologists the ability to more precisely custom sculpt the shape of the tumor. This helps deliver the right amount of radiation more accurately, as well as helps to preserve healthy tissue surrounding the tumor.
Internal: Radiation that is placed inside of the body is called internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy. A radioactive source, called an implant, is placed directly to the tumor or near the tumor. This delivers large doses of radiation to directly to the source of your cancer. These implants may look like a wire, pellet, or seeds.
The most common types of cancers treated with internal radiation therapy are:
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What Are Common Side Effects Of Chemo And Radiation
Chemo and radiation cause similar side effects. Chemo is a general term for a wide variety of medicines used to treat cancer. Chemo’s side effects depend on the type of drug used, the dosage, and a child’s overall health. These effects are more likely to affect the whole body.
Radiation’s side effects tend to affect the area being treated. But they do still depend on the dose of radiation given, the location on the body, and whether the radiation was internal or external.
Here are some of the side effects associated with these cancer treatments, and how to manage them:
Tiredness is the most common side effect of both chemotherapy and radiation. Even the most active kids are likely to find themselves exhausted and perhaps even a little “foggy-headed” during treatment and possibly for a while afterward. This is normal. Encourage your child to scale back on activities and to rest as much as possible. When treatment is over, your child’s energy should return.
Some chemo drugs cause headaches, muscle pains, stomach pains, or even temporary nerve damage that can result in burning, numbness, or tingling in the hands and feet. If this happens, your doctor can prescribe medicines that can help. Never use over-the-counter or herbal medicines without your doctor’s OK, though, as these can interact with the chemo drugs.
Mouth, Gum, and Throat Sores
Kidney and Bladder Problems
Blood Clotting Problems
What Are Side Effects
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are the two most common types of cancer treatment. They work by destroying these fast-growing cells. But other types of fast-growing healthy cells also can be damaged along with cancer cells, causing adverse reactions, or side effects.
Side effects can range from tiredness and nausea to hair loss and blood clotting problems. Because each person responds a little differently to treatment and it’s hard for doctors to predict exactly how the body will react, they’ll closely watch a child who is being treated for cancer. Doctors weigh the amount and severity of side effects against the benefits of treatments.
Fortunately, most side effects are temporary. As the body’s normal cells recover, these problems start to go away. There are also good supportive treatments that can lessen the side effects.
Side effects vary:
- Some can be merely unpleasant, while others can be much more serious.
- Some show up right away, while others develop over time.
- Some kids have just a few, while others have many over the course of treatment.
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The Difference Between Chemo And Radiation
When you or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, its normal to have many thoughts running through your head how bad is it, what does this mean for my future, and what is the treatment actually like?
When referring to treatment, you may hear the words chemotherapy or radiation. Maybe, youre told about a combination of both. So, what exactly is the difference between chemo and radiation?
What Is The Difference Between Radiation Therapy And Chemotherapy
Medical science has made great strides in the treatment of cancer in the last few years and while it still remains the most serious illness, survival rates are going up and it is no longer the cause for fear and despair that it was previously. The two most common forms of treatment are Radiation Therapy and Chemotherapy. While the two treatments are different, the terms are often used interchangeably so it is important for those suffering from this disease and their families and loved ones to know the difference.
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Which Treatment Is Best For You
How lung cancer is treated depends upon the stage, or how advanced the cancer is. The stages of lung cancer go from stage 0 to stage 4 .
The best treatment for you is decided upon discussion with your cancer care team. This can include a medical oncologist, who would administer chemotherapy, as well as a radiation oncologist, who administers radiation.
Surgery is often part of a lung cancer treatment plan. At times surgery won’t be recommended due to the location of the tumor, the spread of cancer, or the ability of the person to tolerate surgery. Before or after surgery, treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be given as well.
At times, radiation or chemotherapy may be the main treatment given. Some early stage lung cancers may be able to be cured with stereotactic radiation alone. Metastatic stage 4 lung cancer may not be treated with radiation, but instead, chemotherapy may be given.
Why Is Radiation Therapy Given
Radiation therapy may aim to:
- cure – some cancers can be cured by radiation therapy alone or combined with other treatments.
- control – radiation therapy can control some cancers by making them smaller or stopping them from spreading.
- help other treatments – radiation therapy can be used before or after other treatments to make them more effective.
- relieve symptoms – if cure is not possible, radiation therapy may be used to reduce cancer symptoms and prolong a good quality of life.
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Where Do You Receive Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy can be given at a medical center or taken at home, depending on the specific drug. Your health care team may need you to come in regularly to the clinic, doctor’s office, or hospital to receive the chemotherapy. This may be called outpatient treatment. Some types of chemotherapy can be taken at home. Ask your health care team how to safely store, handle, and dispose of your at-home medication. See more below, under “oral chemotherapy” and “topical chemotherapy.”
Side Effects Of Radiation
The side effects of radiation also vary from person to person depending on cancer type, extent of the cancer and overall health conditions. Some of the side effects disappear within a month of discontinuation of treatment, while others take longer to subside.
After starting radiation, your skin might get irritated, blistered, swollen or look sunburned. The affected area may become dry, itchy and may start to peel off. These symptoms are called radiation dermatitis. As soon as you see these symptoms, you should consult your doctor. They may suggest drugs or other treatments to minimize your discomfort.
Besides skin conditions, other side effects of radiation therapy include:
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When To Use Radiation
Similar to chemotherapy, radiation can also be applied as a standalone treatment. It can also be used in conjunction with chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the tumor , or after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells .
Typically, doctors prefer radiation therapy prior to surgery to shrink the size of the tumor so that it can be removed more easily.
In some cases, palliative radiation is used to ease symptoms and improve quality of life in terminal cancer patients.
How Long Is A Course Of Treatment
Your treatment will depend on what sort of cancer you have, where it is, its size, your general health and other cancer treatments you may have had. Some people need only one treatment, while others need radiation therapy five days a week for several weeks. If you have internal radiation therapy the implants may be left in place for a few minutes, one to six days or permanently.
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How Will I Know The Treatment Has Worked
After treatment finishes, you will have regular check-ups with your doctor. You will have a physical examination, and you may have scans or tests to check whether the cancer has responded to treatment. It may take some time after your radiation therapy treatment has finished before the full benefit is known.
Your medical team won’t be able to give you progress updates during treatment because cancer cells continue to die for weeks or months after treatment ends. They can, however, help you manage any side effects.
If radiation therapy is given as palliative treatment, the relief of symptoms will indicate that the treatment has worked. This may take a few days or weeks.
Coping With Side Effects
With both chemotherapy and radiation, theres a high likelihood of experiencing some side effects. But that doesnt mean you cant do anything about them.
Here are some tips to cope with the side effects of cancer treatments:
- Ask your doctor about medications you can take to treat nausea and vomiting.
- Place an alcohol pad on the bridge of your nose if youre experiencing nausea.
- Eat popsicles to ease the pain from mouth sores.
- Try drinking ginger ale or ginger tea to ease nausea.
- Eat ice chips to stay hydrated.
- Divide up your meals, so theyre smaller and easier to eat. Focus on eating foods that are high in nutrients and protein.
- Wash your hands frequently to avoid getting an infection.
- Try acupuncture. According to clinical trials, this alternative therapy may help ease nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.
Always talk to your healthcare team about any side effects you may have. Theyll be able to give you specific advice and instructions on what you can do to help relieve your symptoms.
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Radiation Vs Infusion Vs Chemotherapy: A Primer
A cancer diagnosis can be frightening and challenging for anyone it does not have to be though. As a patient learns more about their cancer diagnosis and treatment options, it can become much easier to face the challenge head-on. Knowledge and understanding does not just calm our fears, it can build our confidence. With this in mind, we thought we would take a moment today to briefly discuss three words you may often associate with modern cancer services: radiation, infusion, and chemotherapy. Any one or even all three of these words may be included as a part of a patients care at Southeastern Meds Cancer Center. No one option is necessarily superior to another. Recognizing the differences and connections between the words, however, is a great first step for any prospective patient with cancer and their loved ones.
First, well talk about Radiation Therapy. According to Southeastern Meds Director of Cancer Services, Dominic Crock, this type of treatment generally involves the use of a linear accelerator to precisely provide radiation to the targeted area in the body where a tumor has been found. The treatments goal is to destroy the cancer cells while minimizing any sacrifice of good cells, he says. Southeastern Meds new cancer center features the newest model of linear accelerator available. The new linear accelerator is on par with those found at larger cancer treatment centers.