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Recognizing the Difference between Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy

Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy is a common treatment used to fight cancer cells. Even so, these two methods are often considered the same treatment. So, what is the difference between the two treatments? Check out the full explanation below.

Recognizing the Difference between Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy

Difference Between Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are methods of treatment for treating cancer, both to prevent the uncontrolled growth and spread of cells to surrounding tissues. Despite having the same function, there are a number of basic differences that are important to recognize, including:

1. How it Works

Although these two types of cancer treatment methods both weaken cancer cells, they work in different ways.

Chemotherapy drugs circulate in the bloodstream to kill or shrink cancer cells in the body, not just where the cancerous tumor first started (primary location).

Meanwhile, radiotherapy treatment uses invisible energy beams (radiation), not drugs. In addition, this treatment usually directs the beam of energy only to the part of the body where the cancer cells are growing.

Also Read: 10 Types of Cancer That Can Appear Without Early Symptoms, Don’t Ignore It

2. Procedure

Both of these treatments are usually carried out for several weeks regularly in the hospital. But every case is different, so talk to your doctor about which treatment plan is right for your condition.

Medical personnel will give chemotherapy through one or several of the following methods:

  • Intravenous (IV): Administration of drugs through a needle or tube (port) directly into a vein.
  • Oral: Take pills or capsules.
  • Injection: Administering drugs by injection into the skin or muscle.

For radiotherapy, the medical team will provide treatment through one or more of the following methods:

  • External radiation: A machine outside the body beams an invisible, high-energy beam into the tumor.
  • Internal radiation: This therapy is sometimes called brachytherapy. The doctor places a radioactive seed inside the body near the tumor. Then let the seeds do their thing or maybe spit them out soon after.
  • Systemic radiation: Although it’s rarely done, your doctor may suggest using radiation as a systemic treatment that works throughout the body. That means cancer patients get it from pills taken or by injection or port into one of the veins.

3. Effectiveness

One of these treatments can sometimes be more effective than others at treating certain types of cancer. However, in some cases the two can complement each other and be given simultaneously.

An oncologist can help decide which treatment will be most effective in treating.

Also Read: Getting to Know Immunotherapy, Methods for Treating Various Types of Cancer

4. Side Effects

Basically, side effects depend on the type, amount of medication, and the patient’s condition. Some side effects of chemotherapy include:

  • Hair loss.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Fatigue.
  • Infection.
  • Canker sores in the mouth or throat.
  • Anemia.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Pain and numbness in the limbs (peripheral neuropathy).

Meanwhile, given that radiation therapy is focused on one part of the body, patients are likely to experience fewer side effects compared to chemotherapy.

However, these methods may still affect healthy cells in the body. Side effects that may occur include:

  • Digestive problems such as nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea.
  • Changes in skin condition.
  • Hair loss.
  • Fatigue.
  • sexual dysfunction.

Tell your healthcare provider about any side effects you are having, adjustments in treatment may be needed or adding medication to help manage them if possible.

Now, that’s the difference between radiotherapy and chemotherapy that is important for you to know. Hopefully this information is useful, Healthy Friends.

  1. Frysh, Paul. 2022. What’s the Difference Between Chemotherapy and Radiation?. (Accessed 6 February 2023)
  2. McCall, Bradley T. 2022. What’s The Difference Between Chemotherapy and Radiation?. (Accessed 6 February 2023)
  3. Sweeney, Mary. 2020. Chemotherapy vs. Radiation: How Do They Differ?. (Accessed 6 February 2023)
  4. Villalines, Zawn. 2021. What is the difference between chemotherapy and radiation therapy?. (Accessed 6 February 2023)

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