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Difference Between Radiation and Chemo

cancel_cellsRadiation vs Chemo

Cancer is a dreadful disease that affects thousands of people across the world. Luckily, there are two very effective treatments that can help tackle the onslaught of the disease and help cure it too. Both chemotherapy and radiation can be effectively used to tackle the malaise. However, there are a number of differences between the two treatments.

Method of action

Chemotherapy uses the bloodstream to deliver a deathblow to cancer cells. Trouble is, their action is not confined to cancer cells only. Since the drugs cannot differentiate between cancerous and non cancerous cells, they affect both. Chemotherapy uses medications that damage the DNA of a cell. This prevents them from duplicating themselves. However, since they cannot isolate cancer cells, they usually end up harming good cells also. Radiation on the other hand targets the cancer cells only. It uses a type of energy that destroys cells that are cancerous. It also minimizes tumors. Radiation therapy is also called X ray therapy, radiotherapy and irradiation.


Chemotherapy is used to deal with cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. It is also used to deal with cancers of the breast, lungs and ovaries.Radiation therapy targets the solid tumors. This includes those of the cervix, larynx prostate, skin and spine. They can also be used in case of breast cancers.


Chemotherapy basically refers to a group of medications that can kill cancer cells. They may include anthracyclines, topoisomerase inhibitors and corticosteroids. Radiation therapy, on the other hand, refers to a number of rays that are used in the treatment. They may include X rays and Gamma rays using photons and particle beams. Internal radiation uses radioactive isotopes that are derived from a number of sources like iodine 125, iodine 135, phosphorus, palladium phosphates or cobalt.

Method of administration

Chemotherapy may be administered orally or intravenously. However, radiation may be provided both internally and externally. Radiation, especially the external one, can locate the exact affected area and target the treatment towards it. However, chemotherapy is never as effective as radiation. The reason behind it is that it does not target a single area. It is rather distributed in its impact, and therefore less effective.

Effects on the body
Both chemotherapy and radiation have an adverse impact on the body; so far as its normal functions go. Apart from some common side effects like nausea and infertility, radiation causes additional symptoms of inflammation in the esophagus and the intestine.

1.  Radiation targets only the cancer cells. However, chemotherapy is administered through the blood and therefore, affects both cancerous and non cancerous cells
2. Though they can be used for any sort of cancer, radiation mainly targets solid tumors like those of the cervix, spine and skin.
3. Chemotherapy treats cancers through medicines, while radiation deals with cancer cells through rays
4. Radiation results in additional side effects like internal inflammation, especially in the stomach and the intestine.

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