ZocdocAnswersWhat are the benefits of radiation therapy over chemotherapy?

Question

What are the benefits of radiation therapy over chemotherapy?

When should someone do them both? How are they better or worse?

Answer

Radiation therapy involves applying high energy beams of radiation to certain areas of the body. This kills cancer cells directly as the energy from the beams disrupts the cells. Chemotherapy on the other hand, involves the use of medications that target cancer cells and kill them that way. The two techniques are very different from each other and it is not really a matter of one being superior to the other. Instead, they have different indications and usages, as some types of cancer respond better to radiation therapy and some types of cancer respond better to chemotherapy. A few types of cancer are treated best by combining both chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The side effects of the two methods are different. Radiation therapy is more likely to cause local side effects where the beams pass through, such as burns, soreness, and scarring. Chemotherapy is more likely to cause the body wide symptoms, such as fatigue and hair loss. Without knowing what kind of cancer you are dealing with and how severe it is I cannot speculate as to which type of treatment would be used in your case. Therefore, you will need to talk to your cancer doctor, who will be able to answer your questions.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.