Chemotherapy and Radiation

Both chemotherapy and radiation are treatments for cancer and they help to alleviate the pain of cancer. Let us study in detail  the two different treatment methods  and the side effects of the respective  treatments.

Radiation Cancer Therapy

Chemotherapy and RadiationRadiation is one of the best and effective methods used for treating cancer. It helps in shrinking the overall size of the tumor and also assists to reduce the pressure off the organs and the nerves that the tumor comes in contact with.  It is also very useful to reduce the tremendous pain that is caused when the cancer spreads to other parts of the body such as the blood vessels, brain, spine, nerves and the bones. This treatment is administered only by the radiation oncologist who  also prescribes the treatment for special cases. The process of administering the treatment is known as implantation. This process involves implanting a radioactive material to destroy the cancerous cells in the body.

Side Effects of Radiation Therapy

The side effects of radiation therapy given to cancer patients include redness of the skin and also irritation of the skin. A discussion with the radiation oncologist would reveal that proper skin creams may cause some ease to the irritated skin. There are some other side effects which depend on the area which is exposed to  radiation. Of course radiation can also be the cause of pain and discomfort for the patents suffering from cancer however, the side effects are limited to the area exposed to radiation and thus does not have an ill effect on the whole body and can easily be treated.

Chemotherapy

This is basically a treatment for cancer which is used in stabilizing tumors or reducing the size of the tumors and although this may cure the pain, it does not promise a   complete cure. Some of the many chemotherapy drugs used in the treatment includes the following.

  • Lupron - leuprolide is used to treat pancreatic cancer
  • Gemzar – gemcitabine is used in the chemotherapy treatment and it helps in reducing the  pain in advanced cancer of the pancreas
  • Zoladex - goserelin acetate implant, this is used in combination with other chemotherapy drugs for effective treatment
  • Novantrone / mitoxantrone – this is used in combination with corticosteroids for reducing pain caused in  prostatic cancer
  • Samarium sm 153 – this is used for cancer that has reached the bones and for bone metastasis

Side Effects of Chemotherapy
Although chemotherapy treatment could help relieve the pain in cancer patients, the chemotherapy drugs also tend to cause side effects as the drugs are toxic in nature.

Some of the common side of effects  of chemotherapy include the following:

  • Mouth Sores - This can be avoided and can be dealt with by ensuring that the mouth is  always  clean, using soft toothpaste, and by  avoiding carbonated beverages, hot foods, and also using medicated mouth washes
  • Neuropathy – In this condition, there are tingling sensations called pins and needles in hands and feet because of some chemotherapy drugs that also affect the nerves. So when some patients use drugs that can cause neuropathy, the medications and drugs to be used as an antidote can be discussed before taking the chemotherapy.
  • Nausea and Vomiting – Nausea and vomiting is another common side effects of chemotherapy treatment for cancer and the use of certain drugs such as  Kytril and Zofran which are antiemetic drugs helps in relieving the patient from the same.  Constipation or Diarrhea – This side effect can also be treated with the use of certain medications

Thus, chemotherapy is the use of specialized drugs for treatment of cancer while radiotherapy is the use of ionized radiation for cancer treatment. While anyone who develops a cancer can be given chemotherapy at some or the other stage depending on the severity, radiotherapy may not be appropriate to treat all forms or types of cancers.