Radiation Therapy vs. Chemotherapy – Pros and Cons

Whenever we hear the word “cancer,” the first thing that will pop-up to our mind is the needed treatment for the deadly disease. And two of the procedures that are popularly used by cancer patients to cure the illness are chemotherapy and radiation therapy.


Some may prefer chemotherapy, and some may want to undergo radiation therapy. But some patients would prefer the combination of both treatments. Let us find out the difference between the two therapies and their effectiveness to cure cancer.

The Chemotherapy


Chemotherapy or chemo is a cancer treatment wherein the medications stop the growth, reproduction, and spreading of cancer cells in the body.


There is a lot of ways to undergo chemotherapy, but they have the same effect on the body. Chemo is popularly known to be a systematic treatment that works and kill the cancer cells that already spread out to the body. Finding a suitable treatment for cancer varies depending on what is the type of your cancer, what does it look like upon laboratory trials, the general condition of your body, and the condition of the cancer cells.


Types of Chemotherapy


If you are diagnosed with cancer and planning to have chemo as your therapy, then do it with the supervision of medical experts.


There are various types of chemotherapy for a variety of illness. Moreover, a patient can still undergo the treatment even if they are not inside the hospital, the “outpatient” procedure.


Here are the five primary types of chemotherapy procedure:


  • Alkylating Agents – it is known to be the most effective treatment when a cancer cell is not active and prevents the division of the cell. It can diminish the cancer cell in multiple phases within the cycle.


  • Plant alkaloids – it serves as a block for a cancer cell to divide itself. An anti-tumor drug derived from the plant.


  • Antimetabolites – it can imitate the cell that gives nutrients for the cancer cell to grow and works on the specific cancer cell and disrupts the cancer cell division.


  • Antitumor antibiotics – unlike the antimetabolites, this type of chemotherapy is non-specific and works at various phases of cancer cells.


  • Topoisomerase inhibitors – it has a mechanism of distracting the cancer cell division and weakens the cancer cell structures.


Procedures of Chemotherapy

A patient diagnosed with cancer and wants to have chemotherapy must consider to visit and talk to a medical expert to know what are the things they should prepare and determine the best and fast way of treatment for cancer.

Chemotherapy can be in a pill form for oral medications and inject directly to the vein. It can also be in the way of giving the medicines directly into the tumor. Patients who already undergo a surgical procedure can request an implant slow-dissolving disc which can be released over time.


Side Effects of Chemotherapy


Chemotherapy is proven to be an effective treatment to cure many types of cancer, but it has a side effect on the body. Its side effects may vary depends on what kind of disease and amount of drug is used, and the body’s reaction to the dose of medication.


Side effects such as fatigue, body pain, mouth and throat sores, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, constipation, and blood disorders are the typical reaction of the body to the medications brought by chemotherapy. It can also affect the kidneys, bladder, lungs, nervous system and the cells in the heart.


Even if chemotherapy does an effective treatment and helps to kill the cancer cell, it can sometimes damage the healthy cells upon the process.


The Radiation Therapy


Aside from Chemotherapy, radiation therapy is also an effective treatment to cure cancer and other severe diseases. It can diminish tumor powerfully and effectively.  Generally, radiation therapy makes use of energy waves such as light and heat. It destroys the cancer cells and tumors to prevent spreading throughout the body. The effect of radiation as a treatment for a severe illness like cancer is still under examinations and research.


It typically divides the DNA of cells in a disruptive way to prevent growth and development inside the body.


Types of Radiation Therapy


There are different ways to deliver radiation therapy, either external beams or brachytherapy. These types of treatments are possible by placing tiny wires with radioactive elements right next to the tumor.


Here is a list of some techniques for radiation therapy


  • 3D Conformal Radiation Therapy

3DCRT is a type of radiation therapy that makes use of computed tomography (CT) scan to view the tumor and internal organs of the patient diagnosed with cancer. It has a device called “multi-leaf collimator” that focuses and targets the tumor with a high dose of radiation without damaging the tissues that surround it.


  • Intensity-Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT)

A type of radiation therapy that was initiated by a medical expert to conduct a simulation therapy with the use of a CT scan. It serves an appropriate dose of radiation to cure cancer with the use of linear accelerators.


  • Brachytherapy

is a type of internal radiotherapy where the process of implanting radiation sources directly to the tumor and serves a high dose of radiation into it.


Procedures for Radiation Therapy


Like chemotherapy, radiation therapy does have a lot of types to be given in various kinds of cancer. First of all, a patient diagnosed with cancer must have a physician to determine the type of cancer he/she possesses. Upon the trials, the doctor will give the appropriate dosage of radiation and frequency that is suited for the patient.


It is given with therapy sessions approximately four to five times a week for about ten weeks. But, the total numbers of treatment that the patients should receive depends on the types of cancer he/she has.  Linear accelerator equipment is one of the things needed upon the process for direct concentration of radiation to the tumor.


Side Effects of Radiation Therapy


There are two ways on how the body reacts to radiation therapy. First is the general effect of the treatment and then the effect of radiation on a specific area.


Skin problems such as blistering or dryness of skins, fatigue, and long-term side effects that are quite dangerous and maybe develop for another type of cancer are the typical reaction of the body upon the process of treatment.


When it comes to the specific side effects of radiation to the body, it focuses on the part where the therapy is given. For example, on the head, patients undergo this therapy may have the difficulty of swallowing, nausea, dried mouth, mouth sores, and tooth decay.


What Therapy Suits To Your Cancer Type


If you are planning to have therapy and struggling on what treatment is best for you, then you have to understand first the type of your cancer you have. A doctor’s recommendation is a must upon choosing the treatment that you want to cure your illness.


Upon discussing the chemotherapy and radiation therapy, it is clear that they both do a big help during the process of healing cancer. Even though chemo and radiation both have a lot of side effects that can affect the immune system of a person, they are proven to be effective.


Most common types of cancer that were treated by chemo and radiation are:


  • Cervical
  • Breast
  • Lung
  • Head
  • Prostate
  • Pelvic
  • Ovarian
  • Perianal
  • Neck


It is important to ask all the necessary information before deciding whether to undergo either chemotherapy or radiation therapy or both. Be emotionally prepared for all the side effects, the whole process and success rate of these therapies.

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