Sunday, February 25, 2024

Is Chemo Or Radiation Worse

Questions To Ask The Health Care Team

Radiation Treatment vs. Chemotherapy
  • What physical side effects are likely based on my specific radiation therapy treatment plan? When will they likely begin?

  • How can these side effects be prevented or managed?

  • How can I take care of the affected skin during my treatment period?

  • Who should I tell when a side effect appears or gets worse?

  • Are there specific side effects I should tell the doctor about right away?

  • Who can I talk with if I’m feeling anxious or upset about having this treatment?

  • If I’m having side effects that affect my nutrition, can you recommend an oncology dietitian?

  • What are other ways I can take care of myself during the treatment period?

  • Are there any restrictions on exercising or other physical activity during this treatment?

  • Could this treatment affect my sex life? If so, how and for how long?

  • Could this treatment affect my ability to become pregnant or have a child? If so, should I talk with a fertility specialist before cancer treatment begins?

  • What are the potential long-term effects of this type of radiation therapy?

  • If I’m worried about managing the financial costs of cancer care, who can help me?

  • Will special precautions be needed to protect my family and others from radiation exposure during my treatment period?

  • After radiation therapy is completed, what will my follow-up care plan be?

  • Why is follow-up care important for managing side effects of treatment?

Are There Options To Prevent Or Treat These Side Effects

Yes. Your health care team can help you prevent or relieve many side effects. Preventing and treating side effects is an important part of your overall cancer treatment. This is called palliative care or supportive care. Before treatment begins, ask what side effects are likely from the specific type of treatment you are receiving and when they may happen. And during and after treatment, let your health care team know how you are feeling on a regular basis.

Before Surgery Or Radiotherapy

The aim of chemotherapy before surgery is to shrink a tumour so that you need less surgery, or to make it easier to get all the cancer out. Shrinking the cancer with chemotherapy might also mean that you can have radiotherapy to a smaller area of your body.

Having chemotherapy before other treatments in this way is called neoadjuvant treatment. Sometimes doctors may call it primary treatment.

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What Are The Risks Of Chemotherapy

While chemotherapy may kill rapidly growing cancer cells, the downside is that it may also damage healthy cells in the process. This is often the cause of some common side effects of chemotherapy. For example, chemotherapy may temporarily decrease the production of red and white blood cells in the bone marrow, which may lead to anemia, fatigue and a suppressed immune system. Certain drugsnot all damage cells that help hair grow, which may lead to temporary hair loss. Damage to cells in the digestive system may cause vomiting, diarrhea or constipation.

Not everyone experiences the same side effects to the same degree. The side effects you may experience depend on the type of chemotherapy you receive, the combination of drugs youre treated with, whether you have any other chronic illnesses, the medications you may be taking for other conditions and how active or fit you are going into treatment. Your oncologist considers these issues when determining which treatment options may benefit you and whether you can tolerate treatment.

Common short-term side effects include:

Long-term side effects are less common, but they may include:

Before therapy, patients have to sign consent forms that list every potential side effectmany of which are very rare but still quite scary. Your doctor can tell you which ones you may be more likely to experience.

Which Is Harder On The Body Radiation Or Chemo

Chemotherapy, Radiation, &  Their Hidden Effects on Your Body

A systemic treatment like chemotherapy or liquid radiation may have more off-target side effects than a local treatment. But local treatments that are administered only to the cancer site, like external beam radiation or solid internal radiation treatment, may have more extreme side effects in that area of the body.

Also Check: Does Radiation Make You Lose Weight

Are There Side Effects Of The Combination Approach

There is a slightly higher chance that patients who receive the combined therapy will have rectal irritation or urinary side effects. This is common with prostate cancer radiation therapy because the radiation can damage cells in the tissues surrounding the prostate. But at MSK, we routinely use sophisticated computer-based planning techniques that help us reduce the dose given to normal tissues such as the rectum, bladder, and urethra, lessening the chances of side effects and complications. We have also found that, when treating with the combined approach, using the high-dose-rate brachytherapy compared to low-dose-rate brachytherapy may have less in the way of side effects.

In addition, at MSK, we routinely use a rectal spacer gel, which we inject between the prostate and the rectum while the patient is under mild anesthesia, to create a buffer between these two tissues. By creating this space, we can further reduce the dose of radiation the rectum is exposed to. This leads to fewer side effects for the patient. The rectal spacer gel is biodegradable and dissolves on its own within the body after a few months.

How Radiation Therapy And Chemotherapy Are Used To Treat Cancer

No body and no cancer is created equal. And no approach to cancer treatment should be created equal, too. While chemotherapy and radiation therapy are both designed to treat the body and to fight cancer, each does so in different ways.

Each person’s body and each type of cancer can respond to treatments differently, so this is where an expert-level of care with access to some of the most advanced treatments, technologies, research, physician specialists and a whole-person approach to care become so important.

While some patients may only receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy, others may receive a combination of both, or even additional treatments such as immunotherapy, more personalized medicine or clinical trials. These are all things that our cancer experts help patients with every day to offer the best possible outcomes for cancer treatment, recovery and cure.

Learn more about innovative cancer treatments at the AdventHealth Cancer Institute, or call for more information.

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Radiation To The Pelvis

Radiation therapy to the pelvis can cause bowel and bladder problems in some patients, including:

  • Urinating more than usual
  • Sexual and/or problems getting pregnant or fathering a child

Management of Side Effects during Pelvic Radiation Therapy

  • Do not eat raw fruits, vegetables or whole grains
  • Eat small, frequent meals
  • Do not drink caffeine or alcohol
  • Drink lots of fluids
  • Drink cranberry juice as part of fluid intake
  • Ask your doctor or nurse for medicine if you have painful urination or to lessen frequent loose stools
  • Use birth control to prevent pregnancy
  • Your doctor may prescribe medicines that decrease the number of bowel movements.

Do We Know Which Treatment Is Best For Prostate Cancer Brachytherapy Or External Beam Radiation

Chemo and Radiation | Cancer Treatment Week 1

Its not a question of which type of radiation therapy is best in general, but rather which therapy is best for the patients specific disease and quality-of-life concerns. We want to use the most tailored, pinpointed radiation to treat the prostate tumor effectively while minimizing side effects. This can depend on the tumors size and stage as well as other patient characteristics and even a patients individual preferences.

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What Is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy And What Advantages Does It Offer

Stereotactic body radiation therapy, or SBRT, involves the use of sophisticated image guidance that pinpoints the exact three-dimensional location of a tumor so the radiation can be more precisely delivered to cancer cells. Traditionally, external beam radiation has been delivered in anywhere from 45-48 sessions over multiple weeks. But large, randomized studies have shown that shorter courses of radiation are just as safe and effective. Therefore, at MSK, we have shortened all our radiation courses.

There is increasing interest in giving this radiation in very short courses of treatment using intense radiation doses, called hypofractionated radiation therapy. Many of the people we care for have a type of radiation therapy called MSK PreciseTM. This is a hypofractionated form of SBRT that can be given in five sessions. MSK has been doing this for the past 20 years, and the results in the several hundred people whove been treated have been excellent so far. The treatment is very well tolerated and quite effective

Because of its superior precision, MSK Precise can have fewer side effects than more conventional radiation techniques, with extremely low rates of incontinence and rectal problems. The sexual side effects are low, similar to what is experienced with more extended external radiation techniques. And of course, its much more convenient for patients.

What Are The Benefits Of Chemotherapy

The main benefit of chemotherapy is its potential to destroy cancer cells. It remains one of the most potent tools we have to fight cancer. The potential benefit to each patient depends on treatment goals, which depend on the type of cancer, how advanced it is and what the patient hopes to get out of treatment.

For example, the goal might be to reduce the size of a tumor so that its easier to remove surgically. Or the goal might be to control disease progression as much as possible.

Some patients have cancer that has what we call curative potentialmeaning that if the cancer responds to chemotherapy, there may be no evidence of the disease after treatment. In these cases, the benefit is obvious. If theres a high likelihood that chemotherapy may get rid of your cancer, that benefit may outweigh possible side effects.

Some patients say they actually feel better and have more energy soon after starting chemotherapy because the symptoms of their cancer regress. When it happens, this improvement allows patients to enjoy some activities they hadnt felt up to doing.

Is chemotherapy worth it? In my years of experience as a medical oncologist, my answer is, Yes, usually. If its an option for you, its a decision youll have to make given your specific diagnosis and treatment goals.

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How Can Parents Help

Cancer treatment has come a long way. But it can be hard for kids and teens to cope with the sometimes painful or uncomfortable side effects. Fortunately, doctors have many ways to make treatments easier to manage.

Your child also might feel the emotional effects of having a serious illness. Answer questions and help explain what’s going on in an age-appropriate way. Turn to the care team when needed. A hospital support group, child life specialist, social worker, or psychologist from the team can help your child and your whole family before, during, and after cancer treatment.

You also can find information and support online at:

Treatment Areas And Possible Side Effects

The Difference Between Chemo and Radiation
Part of the body being treated Possible side effects

Healthy cells that are damaged during radiation treatment usually recover within a few months after treatment is over. But sometimes people may have side effects that do not improve. Other side effects may show up months or years after radiation therapy is over. These are called late effects. Whether you might have late effects, and what they might be, depends on the part of your body that was treated, other cancer treatments you’ve had, genetics, and other factors, such as smoking.Ask your doctor or nurse which late effects you should watch for. See the section on Late Effects to learn more.

  • Reviewed:January 11, 2022

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Recommended Reading: Memorial Hospital For Cancer And Allied Diseases

To Cure Or Shrink Early

Some cancers are very sensitive to radiation. Radiation may be used by itself in these cases to make the cancer shrink or completely go away. In some cases, chemotherapy or other anti-cancer drugs may be given first. For other cancers, radiation may be used before surgery to shrink the tumor , or after surgery to help keep the cancer from coming back .

For certain cancers that can be cured either by radiation or by surgery, radiation may be the preferred treatment. This is because radiation can cause less damage and the part of the body involved may be more likely to work the way it should after treatment.

For some types of cancer, radiation and chemotherapy or other types of anti-cancer drugs might be used together. Certain drugs help radiation work better by making cancer cells more sensitive to radiation. Research has shown that when anti-cancer drugs and radiation are given together for certain types of cancer, they can help each other work even better than if they were given alone. One drawback, though, is that side effects are often worse when they are given together.

Why Would You Use Chemo Instead Of Radiation

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are both treatments for cancer the uncontrolled growth and spread of cells to surrounding tissues. Chemotherapy, or chemo, uses special drugs to shrink or kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy, or radiation, kills these cells with high-energy beams such as X-rays or protons.

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Is Chemo Worse Than Radiation

In terms of side effects, radiation therapy differs from chemotherapy in that it only induces side effects in the region being treated and has a higher risk for both early and late adverse effects. Radiation therapy is usually administered over several weeks to months while chemotherapy can be used to treat cancer at any stage of development and can cause side effects even after treatment has ended.

Chemotherapy causes its effect by killing cells that divide rapidly, such as cancer cells. It does this by removing essential proteins from cells or by blocking their ability to divide. Cancer cells cannot reproduce themselves nor can they produce the hormones or other substances that help normal cells reproduce themselves. So over time they stop producing these proteins and hormones and instead start making chemicals to signal nearby healthy cells to grow and reproduce themselves. These signals are called growth factors. Chemotherapy removes these growth factors from the surrounding tissue allowing this new tissue to mature into healthy bone and muscle.

Cancer patients often worry about the long-term health effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, most people who receive these treatments appear to recover fully after going through multiple cycles of therapy. Some evidence suggests that radiation may increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer later in life but this remains controversial.

How Can I Combat Cancer Fatigue

Managing chemo and radiation side effects

The best way to combat fatigue is to treat the underlying cause. Unfortunately, the exact cause may be unknown, or there may be multiple causes. There are treatments to reduce certain causes of cancer fatigue, such as anemia or hypothyroidism. Other causes must be managed on an individual basis.

The following are tips you can use to combat cancer fatigue:

  • Conserve energy.
  • Manage your stress.

Also Check: Most Common Cancer Drugs List

Questions To Ask About Radiation Therapy

Before treatment, youll be asked to sign a consent form saying that your doctor has explained how radiation therapy may help, the possible risks, the type of radiation to be used, and your other treatment options. Before signing the consent form, be sure that you have had a chance to get all your questions answered. Here are some of the things you may want to ask about:

What Is Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy particles or waves, such as x-rays, gamma rays, electron beams, or protons, to destroy or damage cancer cells.

Your cells normally grow and divide to form new cells. But cancer cells grow and divide faster than most normal cells. Radiation works by making small breaks in the DNA inside cells. These breaks keep cancer cells from growing and dividing and cause them to die. Nearby normal cells can also be affected by radiation, but most recover and go back to working the way they should.

While chemotherapy and other treatments that are taken by mouth or injection usually expose the whole body to cancer-fighting drugs, radiation therapy is usually a local treatment. This means its usually aimed at and affects only the part of the body needing treatment. Radiation treatments are planned so that they damage cancer cells with as little harm as possible to nearby healthy cells.

Some radiation treatments use radioactive substances that are given in a vein or by mouth. Even though this type of radiation does travel throughout the body, the radioactive substance mostly collects in the area of the tumor, so theres still little effect on the rest of the body.

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Side Effects Of Radiotherapy

As well as killing cancer cells, radiotherapy can damage some healthy cells in the area being treated.

This can cause some side effects, such as:

  • sore, red skin
  • hair loss in the area being treated
  • feeling sick
  • a sore mouth
  • diarrhoea

Many of these side effects can be treated or prevented and most will pass after treatment stops.

External radiotherapy does not make you radioactive, as the radiation passes through your body.

The radiation from implants or injections can stay in your body for a few days, so you may need to stay in hospital and avoid close contact with other people for a few days as a precaution.

Read more about the side effects of radiotherapy.

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