Home » DIFFERENCE BETWEEN » 46 Differences between Radiation and Chemotherapy

46 Differences between Radiation and Chemotherapy


Radiation and chemotherapy are two popular cancer treatments. Both techniques aim to destroy or slow the growth of cancer cells, but they act in various ways and are frequently used in combination or independently, depending on the type and stage of cancer.


Radiation therapy, often known as radiotherapy, is a medical treatment that employs high-energy radiation to specifically target and harm or kill cancer cells. This treatment targets and damages cancer cells by using high-energy radiation (such as X-rays or protons). 

The radiation causes DNA damage within the cells, preventing them from dividing and developing. This treatment is widely used to reduce tumours, limit their growth, or completely destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy can be administered either externally via machines (external beam radiation) or internally via implants (brachytherapy).

It is a localized treatment, which means it only affects the area where the tumour is present.

Radiation therapy is frequently combined with other cancer treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy, to create a holistic approach to cancer treatment. The type of cancer, its location, size, and stage, as well as the patient’s overall health and medical history, all influence treatment options. A healthcare team regularly monitors radiation therapy patients to manage side effects and provide the best potential outcomes.


Chemotherapy, also known as “chemo,” is a medical treatment that uses powerful chemicals to target and kill rapidly dividing cells, particularly cancer cells. Chemotherapy’s primary purpose is to stop or limit the growth of cancer cells, shrink tumours, and prevent cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy is routinely used to treat a variety of cancers, including solid tumours and blood-related diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma.

Chemotherapy damages not only cancer cells but also normal cells that divide rapidly, resulting in side effects such as hair loss, nausea, and exhaustion. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, which means that it affects the entire body.

It is critical to note that the negative impacts and effectiveness of chemotherapy can vary greatly from person to person. Chemotherapy patients collaborate closely with their healthcare team to manage side effects, assess progress, and alter treatment regimens as needed. The choice to receive chemotherapy is based on a detailed evaluation of the patient’s particular case and the potential benefits weighed against the potential hazards and adverse effects.

Also read: How to Examine the Sputum Specimen In Microbiology Laboratory?



Radiation Therapy



Treatment Type

Localized treatment using high-energy rays

Systemic treatment using drugs


Targeted Area

Specific area of the body

Can affect the whole body or specific areas


Mechanism of Action

Damages DNA in targeted cells

Targets rapidly dividing cells


Mode of Administration

External beam or internal (brachytherapy)

Intravenous, oral, or injection


Treatment Schedule

Typically over several weeks

Varies based on specific drugs and protocols


Cell Kill

Directly kills cells in radiation field

Aims to slow down or stop cell division


Side Effects

Localized side effects near treatment area

Systemic side effects throughout the body



Can be curative or palliative

Can be curative, adjuvant, or palliative


Combination Therapy

Often used in combination with chemotherapy

Often used in combination with radiation


Impact on DNA Repair Mechanisms

Disrupts DNA repair in targeted cells

Affects DNA replication and repair


Delivery Equipment

Linear accelerators, gamma knife, brachytherapy

Various types of chemotherapy drugs


Cellular Level Targeting

Kills cancer cells directly

Targets rapidly dividing cells


Spread to Adjacent Tissues

Minimal spread to adjacent tissues

Systemic spread, affects non-cancer cells too


Effect on Normal Cells

May affect nearby healthy cells

Affects rapidly dividing normal cells


Dosage Control

Precise dosage control

Varies based on patient response and protocol



Targets more radiosensitive cancers

Affects various cancer types differently


Radiation Duration

Short exposure during treatment sessions

Continuous or intermittent treatment


Treatment Delivery Planning

Requires imaging for precise targeting

Dose and schedule determined by oncologist


Depth of Treatment

Can target deeper tissues based on energy

Systemic and can target deeper tissues


Local Tumor Control

Excellent local control of tumors

Targeted and systemic effects


Primary Use

Often used as primary curative treatment

Primary or adjuvant treatment


Treatment Area Monitoring

Requires imaging for alignment and accuracy

Blood tests, imaging for monitoring progress


Procedure Time

Short treatment sessions

Variable duration for different drugs


Role in Curative Treatment

Can be part of curative treatment plan

Often used to complement curative approaches


Secondary Cancers Risk

Small risk of inducing secondary cancers

Possible risk of inducing secondary cancers


Potential for Remission

Can achieve complete remission

Can achieve complete or partial remission


Impact on Blood Cell Counts

Generally less impact on blood cells

Often affects blood cell counts


Timing of Side Effects

Develops gradually over course of treatment

Can be immediate or delayed


Radiation Exposure to Others

Limited exposure to others

Minimal exposure to others


Long-Term Effects

Can cause long-term tissue damage

Long-term effects vary based on drugs used


Impact on Bone Marrow

Minimal impact on bone marrow

Can suppress bone marrow function


Nausea and Vomiting

Minimal to none

Common side effects


Hair Loss

Depends on treatment area and dose

Common side effect


Precision of Treatment

Highly precise targeting

Less precise targeting


Radiation Safety

Requires radiation protection for staff

Chemotherapy handling requires safety measures


Anesthesia Requirement

Generally no anesthesia required

No anesthesia required


Treatment Visualizations

Uses imaging for treatment planning

Blood tests and imaging for monitoring


Immune System Impact

Generally minimal impact on immune system

Can suppress immune system


Tumor Shrinkage

Causes tumor shrinkage over time

Aims to shrink tumors, may not eliminate


Location of Equipment

Hospital-based treatment facilities

Administered in hospitals or clinics


Palliative Care

Used for palliative relief of symptoms

Used for palliative relief of symptoms


Treatment Purpose

Local control and symptom relief

Systemic control and symptom relief


Ongoing Monitoring

Requires regular monitoring during treatment

Requires monitoring for treatment response


Hormone-Sensitive Cancers

May be used for hormone-sensitive cancers

Less commonly used for hormone-sensitive


Personalized Treatment

Customized based on tumor location and type

Customized based on cancer type and patient


Side Effect Duration

Generally resolves after treatment ends

Duration varies based on drugs and doses

Also read: Light Microscope vs Electron Microscope – 40 Major Differences

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are there several kinds of radiation therapy?

Yes, there are different kinds of radiation therapy, such as external beam radiation, internal radiation (brachytherapy), and systemic radiation therapy (radioactive chemicals either orally or intravenously).

What can I expect from a radiation therapy treatment?

During a session, you will recline on a treatment table while the radiation is delivered by a machine. It is normally not painful and only takes a few minutes.  The number of sessions required varies according to the type and stage of the cancer.

What are the risks of radiation therapy?

Fatigue, skin irritation, and temporary hair loss in the treated area are all common adverse effects. These adverse effects typically go away following therapy. More significant side effects are possible, so share any concerns with your medical care.

Is chemotherapy the same for all types of cancer?

No, chemotherapy regimens differ depending on the type of cancer, stage, and overall health of the patient. Various medications and pharmacological combinations may be used.

How does chemotherapy work?

Chemotherapy can be administered intravenously , orally (as pills or liquid), or as injections. The frequency and length of treatment are determined by the regimen.

User Review
0 (0 votes)

Related Articles

Top 15 Difference Between Serum And Plasma

Laboratory Hub Team

Cytokines vs Chemokines- 15 Major Differences

Laboratory Hub Team

27 differences between Lymph and Blood

Laboratory Hub Team

28 Crucial Differences between Iron Deficiency and Anemia

Laboratory Hub Team

Introns vs Exons- 25 Major Differences

Laboratory Hub Team

48 differences between UTIs and yeast infections

Laboratory Hub Team

Leave a Comment

* By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this. Accept Read More