Radiation oncology and chemotherapy are both effective cancer treatments; however, they are different in many ways. Radiation oncology is localized: it targets only the affected area of the body, and therefore, tends to have fewer side effects. Chemotherapy, on the other hand, generally affects multiple organ systems and tends to produce a gamut of side effects. While there has emerged a type of chemotherapy that involves delivering the medication to the precise area of the body, this doesn’t work the same way as does the traditional type.
Let’s explore each of these treatments, along with their potential side effects, to get a better understanding.
Radiation Oncology and Its Side Effects
Radiation oncology, also referred to as radiation therapy or radiotherapy, is a type of cancer treatment that uses focused beams of ionizing energy (e.g., x-rays, gamma rays, electron beams, or protons) to shrink tumors and eradicate cancer cells. The waves destroy the genetic material of cancer cells, which controls how they grow and multiply. Radiation therapy can be done using a device that delivers the precise dose of radiation into the target area of the body known as a linear accelerator. Radiation therapy can also be delivered via a radioactive needle or wire, seed, or pellet.
Side effects of radiation include:
- Burn-like symptoms, such as redness, blistering, and tenderness on the affected area
- Skin scaling
- Digestive problems
Chemotherapy and Its Side Effects
Chemotherapy consists either of a single or combined medications administered orally, intramuscularly, or intravenously. Chemotherapy may be used as a standalone treatment or, often, as an adjuvant (to enhance the outcomes of other modalities).
Chemotherapy is typically done in repeating cycles to destroy the cancer cells at phases when they are doing less damage to the healthy cells. A series of repeating cycles of chemotherapy therapy is referred to as a course, which usually lasts up to six months.
Chemotherapy can produce long-term and potentially serious side effects that can affect various organs or parts of the body, such as the skin, scalp, bone marrow, lungs, bladder, heart, among others.
The following are some of the potential side effects of chemotherapy:
- Bruising and bleeding
- Cognitive difficulties
- Hair loss
- Hearing problems
- Hypertension and heart problems
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea, vomiting, constipation, and other gastrointestinal problems
- Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
- Sore mouth
Many of these side effects are late-developing, meaning they may not become evident until months or years after your treatment.
Radiation Oncology in Wooster, OH
Through our radiation oncology services here at Wooster Community Hospital, we provide care for and give hope to people batting various types of cancer. Just as our cancer care team has helped scores of patients in Wooster and all of its neighboring communities, we will work closely with you to ensure your comfort as you navigate your treatment while helping you achieve complete remission or even successfully defeat cancer.
To schedule an appointment with our cancer care team, you may call us at (330) 263-8100 or fill out this form.