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What’s The Difference Between Radiation And Chemo

Can Chemo And Radiation Be Used Together To Treat Cancer

What is difference between Radiotherapy & Chemotherapy

Some cancers can be treated with just radiation. These are most often cancers caught earlybefore they’ve grown large or started to spread.

Most of the time, cancer treatment plans will contain multiple treatments. These treatments can include radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, surgery, targeted therapies, or immune therapies. When your doctor combines multiple treatments at once, its called a combination treatment plan.

Combination treatments are used for many reasons. Treatments may be more effective when theyre combined. For example, chemotherapy may make radiation treatments more effective.

If your doctor suggests undergoing one type of treatment before others, its called neoadjuvant treatment. Neoadjuvant treatments are typically used to shrink a tumor or destroy metastases before the primary tumor is surgically removed.

Treatments that come after others are called adjuvant treatments and are typically used to reduce the risk that cancers will return or spread after initial treatment or surgery on the primary tumor.

What Are The Types Of External

The most common type of radiation therapy is external-beam radiation therapy. It delivers radiation from a machine outside the body. It can be used to treat large areas of the body, if needed.

A machine called a linear accelerator, or linac, creates the radiation beam for x-ray or photon radiation therapy. Special computer software adjusts the beam’s size and shape. This helps target the tumor while avoiding healthy tissue nearby.

Most radiation therapy treatments are given every weekday for several weeks. Form-fitting supports or a plastic mesh mask are used for radiation therapy to the head, neck, or brain to help people stay still and make sure the beam reaches the same area each session.

The different types of external-beam radiation therapy are:

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:

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Will I Be Able To Work During Radiation Therapy

Some people can continue to work during radiation therapy treatment, while others may need to reduce their hours or take time off. How much you are able to work depends on the type of radiation therapy you have, how the treatment makes you feel and the type of work you do. Your treatment team will encourage you to be as active as possible, and they can answer your questions about working during treatment.

Are There Any Side Effects


Radiation therapy is usually well tolerated and many patients are able to continue their normal routines. However, some patients may eventually develop painful side effects. Be sure to talk to a member of your radiation oncology treatment team about any problems or discomfort you may have. Many of the side effects of radiation therapy are only in the area being treated. For example, a breast cancer patient may notice skin irritation, like a mild to moderate sunburn, while a patient with cancer in the mouth may have soreness when swallowing. Some patients who are having their midsection treated may report feeling sick to their stomach. These side effects are usually temporary and can be treated by your doctor or other members of the treatment team.

Side effects usually begin by the second or third week of treatment, and they may last for several weeks after the final radiation treatment. In rare instances, serious side effects develop after radiation therapy is finished. Your radiation oncologist and radiation oncology nurse are the best people to advise you about the side effects you may experience. Talk with them about any side effects you are having. They can give you information about how to manage them and may prescribe medicines or changes in your eating habits to help relieve your discomfort.

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What Are Additional Treatment Options

Systemic Radiation Therapy

Certain cancers may be treated by swallowing radioactive pills or receiving radioactive fluids in the vein . This type of treatment is called systemic radiation therapy because the medicine goes to the entire body. For example, radioactive iodine capsules are given to treat some types of thyroid cancer. Another example is the use of intravenous radioactive material to treat pain due to cancer that has spread to the bone. Radiolabeled antibodies are monoclonal antibodies with radioactive particles attached. These antibodies are designed to attach themselves directly to the cancer cell and damage it with small amounts of radiation.

Cancer doctors now know much more about how cancer cells function. New cancer therapies use this information to target cancer cell functions and stop them. Called targeted therapies, they can be more specific in stopping cancer cells from growing and may make other treatments work better. For example, some medicines work to prevent cancers from growing by preventing the growth of new blood vessels that would nourish the cancer. Other targeted therapies work more directly on cancer cells by blocking the action of molecules on the surface of cancer cells called growth factors.



Some medicines called radioprotectors can help protect healthy tissue from the effects of radiation.

Intraoperative Radiation Therapy



About Upmc Hillman Cancer Center

When you are facing cancer, you need the best care possible. UPMC Hillman Cancer Center provides world-class cancer care, from diagnosis to treatment, to help you in your cancer battle. We are the only comprehensive cancer center in our region, as designated by the National Cancer Institute. We have more than 70 locations throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York, with more than 200 oncologists making it easier for you to find world-class care close to home. Our internationally renowned research team is striving to find new advances in prevention, detection, and treatment. Most of all, we are here for you. Our patient-first approach aims to provide you and your loved ones the care and support you need. To find a provider near you, visit our website.


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How Does Radiation Therapy Work / What Is Radiotherapy

Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, is the use of various forms of radiation to safely and effectively treat cancer and other diseases. Radiation oncologists may use radiation to cure cancer, to control the growth of the cancer or to relieve symptoms, such as pain. Radiation therapy works by damaging cells. Normal cells are able to repair themselves, whereas cancer cells cannot. New techniques also allow doctors to better target the radiation to protect healthy cells.

Sometimes radiation therapy is the only treatment a patient needs. At other times, it is only one part of a patients treatment. For example, prostate and larynx cancer are often treated with radiotherapy alone, while a woman with breast cancer may be treated with surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Radiation may also be used to make your primary treatment more effective. For example, you can be treated with radiation therapy before surgery to help shrink the cancer and allow less extensive surgery than would otherwise be needed or you may be treated with radiation after surgery to destroy small amounts of cancer that may have been left behind. A radiation oncologist may choose to use radiation therapy in a number of different ways. Sometimes the goal is to cure the cancer. In this case, radiation therapy may be used to:

  • Shrink tumors that are interfering with your quality of life, such as a lung tumor that is causing shortness of breath.
  • Relieve pain by reducing the size of your tumor.

How Long Do Radiation And Chemotherapy Side Effects Last

Radiation Treatment: How is Radiation Treatment Given?

Most side effects go away within a few months after you finish treatment. Still, some side effects dont start until months or years after treatment. In some cases, side effects can be permanent. Ask your oncologist about what to expect. Ask them to connect you to palliative care resources to help manage cancer symptoms and treatment side effects.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Every persons cancer treatment experience is unique. Some common side effects might not affect you, or you may have a side effect not listed here. Your healthcare provider can inform you of signs and symptoms you should look for. Still, only you know how you feel. Let your oncologist and palliative care team know what youre experiencing. They can recommend ways to manage side effects. Your oncologist can adjust your treatments if necessary.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/03/2022.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services.Policy

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Which To Choose For Cancer Treatment

The oncologist will decide which treatment is most effective for the patient. If the disease is spreading rapidly, chemotherapy will be the most likely approach. Radiation therapy may make more sense for particular types of cancer that are affecting smaller areas. Patients react differently to the treatments. If the patient has an adverse reaction to one, the oncologist may try the other therapy.

Where Will Treatment Take Place

Radiation therapy is usually given in private clinics or large hospitals. Treatment is given by trained staff called nuclear medicine specialists or radiation therapists. The treatment will be supervised by radiation oncologists who are the main treating medical specialists for people getting radiation therapy.

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What’s The Difference Between Chemotherapy And Radiation

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are both treatments for cancer â the uncontrolled growth and spread of cells to surrounding tissues.

Chemotherapy, or âchemo,â uses special drugs to shrink or kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy, or âradiation,â kills these cells with high-energy beams such as X-rays or protons.

To Treat Symptoms Caused By Advanced Cancer

Chemotherapy Vs. Radiation

Sometimes cancer has spread too much to be cured. But some of these tumors can still be treated to make them smaller so that the person can feel better. Radiation might help relieve problems like pain, trouble swallowing or breathing, or bowel blockages that can be caused by advanced cancer. This is called palliative radiation.

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Whats The Difference Between Chemotherapy And Radiation

Chemotherapy and radiation are two common types of cancer treatments.

  • Chemotherapy treatments are powerful drugs that work throughout your entire bodys tissues and cells to kill fast-growing cells, including cancer cells. Alternatively, sometimes chemotherapy drugs are sent directly into an artery or cavity where the cancer is.
  • Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to target a tumor directly, or it sometimes can be injected or taken as a liquid to target cancer cells throughout your body.

Both are used to treat a wide range of cancers, either alone or in combination with other therapies.

Cancer Treatment: Radiation Therapy Versus Chemotherapy

Cancer can be an ugly disease and take its toll on anyones body. If your oncologist recently gave you a diagnosis, you want to know what your outlook is and how you can conquer the illness. Some forms of the disease are worse than others, but in most situations, treatments are available. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are two of the most common ways to combat the condition. Each has benefits and challenges. Your oncologist will discuss with you which one makes the most sense in your situation.

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How Long Do Side Effects Last

Remember that the type of radiation side effects you might have depends on the prescribed dose and schedule. Most side effects go away within a few months of ending treatment. Some side effects may continue after treatment ends because it takes time for the healthy cells to recover from radiation.

Side effects might limit your ability to do some things. What you can do will depend on how you feel. Some patients are able to go to work or enjoy leisure activities while they get radiation therapy. Others find they need more rest than usual and cant do as much. If you have side effects that are bothersome and affecting your daily activities or health, the doctor may stop your treatments for a while, change the schedule, or change the type of treatment youre getting. Tell your cancer care team about any side affects you notice so they can help you with them.

How Will I Know The Treatment Has Worked

Colon v. Rectal Cancer: What you need to know

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.

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What Are The Similarities And Differences Between The Two Therapies

Chemotherapy and immunotherapy are similar in many ways. Both are drug therapies that seek to destroy cancer cells and can be used to treat many different types of cancers.

Although they have a similar goal, the way these treatments destroy cancer cells differs. Immunotherapy seeks to enhance your immune systems ability to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs directly impair a cancer cells ability to replicate.

Immunotherapy Helps Your Immune System Recognize And Destroy Cancer Cells

Immunotherapy drugs help your immune system recognize cancer and destroy it. The ultimate goal of immunotherapy is to create a group of T cells that specifically target cancer. T cells are a special type of white blood cell that attacks foreign invaders.

Immunotherapy is a growing area of research. Many scientists are optimistic it could lead to breakthroughs in cancer treatment.

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What Are Clinical Trials

Cancer specialists regularly conduct studies to test new treatments. These studies are called clinical trials. Clinical trials are available through cancer doctors everywhere- not just in major cities or in large hospitals.

Some clinical studies try to determine if a therapeutic approach is safe and potentially effective. Many large clinical trials compare the more commonly used treatment with a treatment that cancer experts think might be better. Patients who participate in clinical trials help doctors and future cancer patients find out whether a promising treatment is safe and effective. All patients who participate in clinical trials are carefully monitored to make sure they are getting quality care. It is important to remember that clinical trials are completely voluntary. Patients can leave a trial at any time. Clinical trials testing new treatments are carried out in phases:

Only you can make the decision about whether or not to participate in a clinical trial. Before making your decision, it is important to learn as much as possible about your cancer and the clinical trials that may be available to you. Your radiation oncologist can answer many of your questions if you are considering taking part in a trial or contact the National Cancer Institute at 1-800-4-CANCER or

Whats The Difference Between Chemotherapy Radiation Therapy Immunotherapy

Chemo: What Is The Difference Between Chemo And Radiation

Posted onAuthorLinda Kesselring

The goal of cancer treatment is to cure, shrink, or stop the progression of a cancer. Depending on the particular situation, patients may receive one treatment or a combination of treatments. There are many different types of cancer treatments, which will be described in this post.

Doctors often recommend chemotherapy as a treatment for cancer. Chemotherapy uses drugs that kill dividing cancer cells and prevent them from growing. It is considered a systemic treatment, because it affects cancer cells throughout the body, which includes potential metastasized growths. Many chemotherapy drugs have adverse effects, some of which may be severe. Doctors recommend chemotherapy after assessing the risk for side effects, when they believe that the specific patient will have significant benefits from it. A person will often have chemotherapy as part of an overall treatment plan, which may also include surgery and radiation therapy. These treatments are effective in many cases of cancer. However, their effectiveness will often depend on the stage of the cancer as well as its type. Overall, it is calculated that about 50% of cancer patients will receive chemotherapy as part of their treatment at some point.

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What Is Immunotherapy

Cancer immunotherapy is a treatment that empowers a patients own immune system to fight cancer. Immunotherapy works to harness and enhance the natural powers of the immune system to work against the diseaseby enabling it to recognize, target, and eliminate cancer cells throughout the body.

Immunotherapy can be given alone, or in combination with other types of cancer treatments. It has already proven to be an effective treatment for patients with various types of cancers, making it the most promising new cancer treatment approach since the first chemotherapies were developed in the 1940s.

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.

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