Cancer is one of the most dreaded diseases in the world. With the advancement in the medical field and technology, the survival rate for cancer is on the rise. There are many forms of cancer that are treatable and curable completely.
The most common forms of cancer treatment include chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Many patients who are advised either of the two treatments, think they are the same. However, there lie many differences between chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The following paragraphs focus on chemotherapy vs. radiation as well as giving an elaborate view on both cancer treatments that help in cancer cure.
Cancer is a devastating disease that changes your outlook towards life. One has to fight tooth and nail to overcome cancer and live a fuller life. To defeat cancer, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are the most effective options. In order to understand the distinctions between them, we shall have a look at both these treatments separately.
Chemotherapy treats cancer with the help of chemicals. There are chemotherapy drugs, also called antineoplastic drugs, that help kill cancer cells. These drugs target cancer cells that grow and divide rapidly. However, the drug also ends up affecting normal growing and dividing cells of the hair follicles, bone marrow and digestive tract. Thus, chemotherapy is a systemic therapy as it affects the entire body. This type of therapy is used to treat cancerous as well as non-cancerous tumors.
There are about 50 different chemotherapy drugs that are used individually or in combination. It has been found that there are over 190 different types of cancers that respond well to these drugs. Chemotherapy is administered in a series of sessions called a 'cycle'. The main aim of this treatment is to stop the cells from dividing and reproducing new cancerous cells. It helps controlling the spread of tumor, shrinking the tumor and getting rid of the cancer from the body. It may be given before a surgery to remove the cancer or tumor. This helps in shrinking the tumor and weakening it thus, making the surgery successful. It may even be given after a surgery to get rid of the cancerous cells that may have been left behind.
Chemotherapy is not free from side effects. As mentioned earlier, it is a systemic treatment that affects the entire body, irrespective of the location of the tumor. This affects normal functioning of various other body cells. The side effects caused by chemotherapy include nausea, metallic taste in mouth, severe anemia, fatigue, cardiotoxicity, liver damage, loss of hair, kidney damage, ear damage, etc. Infertility and secondary neoplasm also occur in some patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy involves use of ionizing radiations for treating cancer and spread of malignant cells. Radiation therapy is used as a last option for treatment of an incurable cancer and controlling the disease from spreading. It can also be used to treat certain non-malignant cancers. There are X-rays that are used to target cells in a specific location of the body. The X-rays fall directly on the cancer cells and kill the cancerous cells. Radiation therapy is a very precise treatment plan and is said to be less painful than chemotherapy. The patient is provided radiation therapy with the help of a machine, usually in a hospital or a clinic. Radiation therapy too is not free from side effects. However, most of the side effects are not immediate and may appear several years down the line. The side effects include itchy, blistering, peeling and dry skin. Some patients suffer from edema due to soft tissue swelling owing to radiotherapy. Infertility, fibrosis, hair loss, heart diseases, lymphedema, etc., are considered as late side effects of radiation therapy.
Differences Between Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy
|Chemotherapy involves use of chemical drugs to kill cancer cells.||Radiation therapy uses radiation to target cancerous cells.|
|Chemotherapy drugs not only target cancerous cells, but other rapidly dividing normal body cells as well.||Radiation therapy is cancer cell specific as the X-rays are targeted towards the location of cancer cells.|
|Chemotherapy is used to treat cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, breast cancer, lung cancer and ovarian cancer, etc.||Radiation therapy helps in treatment of cervical cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer, spinal cancer, breast cancer, etc.|
|There are different types of chemotherapy drugs like anthracyclines, topoisomerase inhibitors, etc.||Radiation therapy involves use of different rays like X-rays, gamma rays, particle beams, etc.|
|Chemotherapy is administered to the patient intravenously or orally.||Radiation therapy can be internally and externally targeted based on the cancer cell location.|
Chemotherapy is the first choice of treatment, followed by radiation therapy, if all else fails. One can also be given chemotherapy and radiation therapy in combination. Both treatments involve many undesirable and painful side effects. Hope the above information was useful in understanding the two standard treatments for cancer better.