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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

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

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.

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S.No.

Aspect

Radiation Therapy

Chemotherapy

1

Treatment Type

Localized treatment using high-energy rays

Systemic treatment using drugs

2

Targeted Area

Specific area of the body

Can affect the whole body or specific areas

3

Mechanism of Action

Damages DNA in targeted cells

Targets rapidly dividing cells

4

Mode of Administration

External beam or internal (brachytherapy)

Intravenous, oral, or injection

5

Treatment Schedule

Typically over several weeks

Varies based on specific drugs and protocols

6

Cell Kill

Directly kills cells in radiation field

Aims to slow down or stop cell division

7

Side Effects

Localized side effects near treatment area

Systemic side effects throughout the body

8

Purpose

Can be curative or palliative

Can be curative, adjuvant, or palliative

9

Combination Therapy

Often used in combination with chemotherapy

Often used in combination with radiation

10

Impact on DNA Repair Mechanisms

Disrupts DNA repair in targeted cells

Affects DNA replication and repair

11

Delivery Equipment

Linear accelerators, gamma knife, brachytherapy

Various types of chemotherapy drugs

12

Cellular Level Targeting

Kills cancer cells directly

Targets rapidly dividing cells

13

Spread to Adjacent Tissues

Minimal spread to adjacent tissues

Systemic spread, affects non-cancer cells too

14

Effect on Normal Cells

May affect nearby healthy cells

Affects rapidly dividing normal cells

15

Dosage Control

Precise dosage control

Varies based on patient response and protocol

16

Radiosensitivity

Targets more radiosensitive cancers

Affects various cancer types differently

17

Radiation Duration

Short exposure during treatment sessions

Continuous or intermittent treatment

18

Treatment Delivery Planning

Requires imaging for precise targeting

Dose and schedule determined by oncologist

19

Depth of Treatment

Can target deeper tissues based on energy

Systemic and can target deeper tissues

20

Local Tumor Control

Excellent local control of tumors

Targeted and systemic effects

21

Primary Use

Often used as primary curative treatment

Primary or adjuvant treatment

22

Treatment Area Monitoring

Requires imaging for alignment and accuracy

Blood tests, imaging for monitoring progress

23

Procedure Time

Short treatment sessions

Variable duration for different drugs

24

Role in Curative Treatment

Can be part of curative treatment plan

Often used to complement curative approaches

25

Secondary Cancers Risk

Small risk of inducing secondary cancers

Possible risk of inducing secondary cancers

26

Potential for Remission

Can achieve complete remission

Can achieve complete or partial remission

27

Impact on Blood Cell Counts

Generally less impact on blood cells

Often affects blood cell counts

28

Timing of Side Effects

Develops gradually over course of treatment

Can be immediate or delayed

29

Radiation Exposure to Others

Limited exposure to others

Minimal exposure to others

30

Long-Term Effects

Can cause long-term tissue damage

Long-term effects vary based on drugs used

31

Impact on Bone Marrow

Minimal impact on bone marrow

Can suppress bone marrow function

32

Nausea and Vomiting

Minimal to none

Common side effects

33

Hair Loss

Depends on treatment area and dose

Common side effect

34

Precision of Treatment

Highly precise targeting

Less precise targeting

35

Radiation Safety

Requires radiation protection for staff

Chemotherapy handling requires safety measures

36

Anesthesia Requirement

Generally no anesthesia required

No anesthesia required

37

Treatment Visualizations

Uses imaging for treatment planning

Blood tests and imaging for monitoring

38

Immune System Impact

Generally minimal impact on immune system

Can suppress immune system

39

Tumor Shrinkage

Causes tumor shrinkage over time

Aims to shrink tumors, may not eliminate

40

Location of Equipment

Hospital-based treatment facilities

Administered in hospitals or clinics

41

Palliative Care

Used for palliative relief of symptoms

Used for palliative relief of symptoms

42

Treatment Purpose

Local control and symptom relief

Systemic control and symptom relief

43

Ongoing Monitoring

Requires regular monitoring during treatment

Requires monitoring for treatment response

44

Hormone-Sensitive Cancers

May be used for hormone-sensitive cancers

Less commonly used for hormone-sensitive

45

Personalized Treatment

Customized based on tumor location and type

Customized based on cancer type and patient

46

Side Effect Duration

Generally resolves after treatment ends

Duration varies based on drugs and doses

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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.

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