Difference Between Radiation and Chemotherapy

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: August 14, 2022


Difference Between Radiation and Chemotherapy Difference Between Radiation and Chemotherapy

Why read @ Diffzy

Our articles are well-researched

We make unbiased comparisons

Our content is free to access

We are a one-stop platform for finding differences and comparisons

We compare similar terms in both tabular forms as well as in points


Cancer is unquestionably one of the most feared and reviled illnesses. In 2018, 9.5 million individuals worldwide lost their lives to cancer. It is ranked as the second most common cause of death by the World Health Organization. Statistics show that 1300 people in India die from cancer-related causes per day. These numbers are unsettling and scary. Over the past few decades, there has been a steady increase in the occurrence of cancer. There are numerous varieties of cancer. The term "cancer" refers to a category of illnesses where a person's body begins and won't stop dividing some cells uncontrollably. Cancer is unquestionably one of the most dreaded and feared illnesses. In 2018, 9.5 million individuals worldwide lost their lives to cancer. It is ranked as the second most common cause of death by the World Health Organization. Statistics show that 1300 people in India die from cancer-related causes per day. These numbers are troubling and disturbing. Over the past few decades, there has been a steady rise in the occurrence of cancer. There are numerous varieties of cancer. The term "cancer" refers to a category of illnesses where a person's body begins and can't stop proliferating some cells in an unregulated way.

Cancer Treatment Options

There are numerous methods and medications for treating cancer, and many more are being researched. Some treatments are performed "locally," like surgery and radiation therapy, to treat a particular tumour or region of the body. Because they can have an impact on the entire body, drug therapies (such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or targeted therapy) are frequently referred to as "systemic" treatments.

Treatments for cancer that are frequently combined with other treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy (such as monoclonal antibody therapy), and synthetic lethality (e.g., chemotherapy before surgery). Treatment options are influenced by the location, severity, and stage of the disease as well as the patient's general condition (performance status). Through the use of cancer genome sequencing, the most effective course of treatment for a patient's unique malignancy can be identified. Numerous cancer medicines are also currently being developed. Two out of every five people will eventually develop cancer, according to recent predictions. The ideal, if seldom attained, the goal of treatment is to completely eradicate cancer without causing harm to the rest of the body, and this is frequently the case in actual practice. Surgery can sometimes be used to accomplish this, but its efficiency is sometimes limited by malignancies' propensity to invade nearby tissue or move to distant areas through microscopic metastasis. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can also have a deleterious impact on normal cells. Therefore, a cure with negligible side effects may be considered a practical goal in some circumstances. In addition to treating cancer as a chronic disease, other practical goals of therapy include (1) suppressing cancer to a subclinical state and maintaining that state for years of good quality of life, and (2) palliative care without a curative intent (for advanced-stage metastatic cancers).

Treatment of Cancer

A correct cancer diagnosis is essential for the best course of treatment because each type of cancer necessitates a distinct approach. Treatment options include surgery, radiation, and/or systemic therapy. It's crucial to consider the patient and cancer while selecting a therapy strategy. It is crucial to finish the treatment process within the specified time frame to achieve the desired therapeutic result. A critical initial step is to establish the goals of the treatment. Typically, curing cancer or considerably extending life are the primary goals. Improving the patient's quality of life is a major goal. This can be accomplished with the aid of palliative care for people with terminal cancer as well as support for the patient's physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

Some of the most common cancer forms, including breast cancer, cervical cancer, oral cancer, and colorectal cancer, have high cure rates when found early and treated by best practices. Many cancer types, including testicular seminoma and other types of leukaemia and lymphoma in children, have good cure rates if sufficient treatment is offered, even when cancerous cells are present in other places of the body. There is a significant difference in treatment accessibility between nations of different economic levels, with comprehensive treatment presumably available in more than 90% of high-income countries but fewer than 15% of low-income countries (3).

Difference Between Chemotherapy and Radiation in Tabular Form

Table: Chemotherapy and Radiation
Parameters Of Comparison
Chemotherapy, also called "chemotherapeutic agents," is the use of one or more cytotoxic anti-neoplastic drugs as part of a prescribed regimen to treat cancer.
Ionizing radiation is a type of medical technology that is used to regulate or eradicate malignant cells. Other names for the profession include radiotherapy (in the UK and Australia) and radiation oncology; XRT or DXT may also be used.
To prevent contact with the drugs, family members must take special care.
The radiation should be avoided by family members.
Symptoms include exhaustion, nausea, vomiting, anorexia, altered emotional patterns, changes in fertility, lowered immunity, baldness, and pain.
Tiredness, nausea, vomiting, anorexia, agitation, and changes in skin colour. Applying to the head causes hair loss, and applying to the neck causes.
Method of Administration
Injection, intra-arterial, intravenous, topically applied, or orally
External, Internal, Oral, and Injection.
Hazardous to healthy people
Yes, family members need to take extra precautions to avoid contact with the medications.
Yes, family members should avoid radiation.

What is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a medication that has a global impact. This suggests that it travels throughout the body through the blood. Chemotherapy can take many different forms. In general, chemotherapy drugs are strong chemicals that destroy malignant cells at specific points in the cell cycle. All living organisms produce new cells through a process called the cell cycle. Because cancer cells go through this phase more quickly than healthy cells do, chemotherapy has a larger effect on these rapidly proliferating cells. Since chemotherapy circulates throughout the entire body, it might destroy healthy cells as they go through their normal cell cycle. This explains why nausea and hair loss are possible adverse effects of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is regarded as a systemic kind of treatment because the medications it contains circulate throughout the body and can eradicate cancer cells that have metastasized—or spread—to locations outside the initial tumour. It differs from procedures like surgery and radiation because of this. Radiation therapy is used to target a specific area of the body to kill or injure cancer cells. Surgery is used to remove tumours from areas of the body where cancer has been discovered. These kinds of therapies are known as local treatments since they only target a single body component.

Chemotherapy is the term for cancer treatment using medications (sometimes known as "anticancer drugs") that can kill cancer cells. Contrary to focused therapy, the term "chemotherapy" today typically refers to cytotoxic chemicals that attack rapidly dividing cells in general (see below). Chemotherapy medications can prevent cell division in a variety of ways, such as by preventing DNA duplication or separating newly produced chromosomes. The majority of chemotherapies do not specifically target cancer cells; however, they do target all fast-dividing cells. This lack of specificity may be because many cancer cells are unable to repair DNA damage, although normal cells can. Consequently, chemotherapy poses a risk of damaging healthy tissue, especially those tissues with a rapid rate of turnover (e.g., intestinal lining). Following chemotherapy, these cells normally heal on their own. Two or more medications are frequently administered concurrently because some medications perform better together than they do separately. The majority of chemotherapy regimens are administered as a combination, which is known as "combination chemotherapy."

Some leukaemia and lymphomas must be treated with entire body radiation therapy and high-dose chemotherapy (TBI). This procedure destroys the bone marrow, impairing the body's capacity to heal and replenish the blood. To enable "rescue" once the treatment has been administered, bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell harvesting is done before the ablative portion of the therapy. Autologous stem cell transplantation is what is being done here.

Traditional chemotherapeutic drugs are cytotoxic because they prevent cell division (mitosis), but cancer cells respond differently to these drugs than other types of cells. Chemotherapy can be largely viewed as a method of damaging or stressing cells, which may then result in cell death if apoptosis is triggered. The destruction of healthy cells in the bone marrow, digestive tract, and hair follicles—cells that divide quickly and are susceptible to anti-mitotic drugs—is a major cause of chemotherapy's side effects. Therefore, baldness, mucositis (inflammation of the digestive tract lining), and myelosuppression (lower blood cell production leading to immunosuppression) are the most frequent side effects of chemotherapy (hair loss). Due to their effects on immune cells, particularly lymphocytes, chemotherapy drugs are widely utilized in a variety of illnesses characterized by harmful immune system overactivity against self (so-called autoimmunity). These include rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, vasculitis, multiple sclerosis, and many more.

What is Radiation?

Ionizing radiation is used in radiation therapy, also referred to as radiotherapy or RT, to kill or contain malignant cells. It is frequently given as part of cancer treatment and is sometimes known as RT, RTX, or XRT. Radiation therapy may be curative if a malignancy is contained in a specific body part. It may also be used as adjuvant therapy following surgery to remove a primary malignant tumour to stop tumour recurrence. Radiation therapy has been used before, during, and after chemotherapy in cancers that react favourably to it. The area of oncology that deals with radiotherapy are called radiation oncology.

Radiation therapy has been used before, during, and after chemotherapy in cancers that react favourably to it. The area of oncology that deals with radiotherapy are called radiation oncology. Specialists in this area of medicine include radiation oncologists. Radiation treatment is widely used to treat malignant tumours because it can control cell proliferation. Ionizing radiation destroys cancerous tissue's DNA, killing cells. To preserve healthy tissue, shaped radiation beams are directed from various exposure angles to intersect at the tumour, producing a significantly higher absorbed dose there than in the surrounding healthy tissue (such as skin or organs which radiation must pass through to treat the tumour).

If the draining lymph nodes are clinically or radiologically associated with the tumour, or if there is a possibility of latent malignant dissemination, the radiation fields may additionally include those nodes in addition to the tumour itself. To account for uncertainties in daily setup and internal tumour mobility, a margin of healthy tissue must be present around the tumour. These ambiguities may be brought on by both internal movement (such as breathing and bladder filling) and outward movement of skin markings about the tumour’s position. In contrast to radiology, which uses radiation for imaging and diagnosis in medicine, radiation oncology is the branch of medicine that deals with prescribing radiation. A radiation oncologist may recommend radiation with the goal of curing cancer or as adjuvant therapy. It can also be used therapeutically or as palliative care (when a cure is impossible and the goal is local disease control or symptom reduction) (where the therapy has survival benefits and can be curative). Combining radiation therapy with surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy, or some combination of the four is also rather frequent. Radiation therapy can be used in some capacity to treat the majority of prevalent cancer forms. The kind, location, and stage of the tumour, as well as the patient's overall health, will determine the particular treatment intent (curative, adjuvant, neoadjuvant therapeutic, or palliative).

TBI is a type of radiation therapy intended to get the body ready for a bone marrow transplant. Another type of radiation therapy that reduces exposure to healthy tissue during procedures to treat malignancies of the breast, prostate, and other organs is brachytherapy, in which a radioactive source is put inside or close to the area that has to be treated. Radiation therapy has many uses in the treatment of non-cancerous conditions, including the prevention of keloid scar growth, vascular restenosis, and heterotopic ossification, as well as the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia, acoustic neuromas, severe thyroid eye disease, pterygium, and pigmented villonodular synovitis. Concerns regarding the possibility of radiation-induced tumours place restrictions on the use of radiation therapy in non-malignant disorders.

Difference Between Chemotherapy and Radiation In Points

  • Radiation is made to treat cancer, which is typically treated with beams, whereas chemotherapy is made to treat cancer, which is typically treated either orally or intravenously.
  • The radiation beam is then directed over the tumour, changing the DNA's structure. While in chemotherapy, the act of killing the residual cells is referred to as adjuvant chemotherapy, doing so shrinks and destroys it.
  • While there are no different types of chemotherapy, there are two types of radiation: internal and external.
  • Chemotherapy is more uncomfortable than radiation since it can lead to sore throats and other throat-related problems.
  • The negative effects of radiation are less severe than those of chemotherapy, which include anaemia, diarrhoea, weakness, hair loss, exhaustion, vomiting, and skin abnormalities.


Here, we conclude that while both treatments are intended to treat cancer, they nonetheless differ from one another. One sort of therapy used to treat cancer is radiation. In this, an intensely energetic beam is directed at the tumour. The cancer cells die as a result. Chemotherapy is a sort of therapy, as the name suggests. It is mostly a sort of cancer treatment that has been developed. In addition to being administered through the mouth during chemotherapy, medications are frequently injected into the patient's veins. Treatment with chemotherapy kills cancer cells. In contrast to chemotherapy, which has more side effects such as anaemia, diarrhoea, weakness, hair loss, exhaustion, and vomiting, radiation has fewer side effects like hair loss, fatigue, and skin changes.


  1. "4 Best Home Remedies For Lung Cancer | HDFC Health". www.hdfchealth.com.
  2. ^ Takimoto CH, Calvo E (2008). "Principles of Oncologic Pharmacotherapy". In Puzder R, Wagman LD, Camphausen KA, Hoskins WJ (eds.). Cancer Management: A Multidisciplinary Approach (11 ed.).
  3. ^ Duarte, F J (Ed.), Tunable Laser Applications (CRC, New York, 2009) Chapters 5, 7, 8.


Cite this article

Use the citation below to add this article to your bibliography:



MLA Style Citation

"Difference Between Radiation and Chemotherapy." Diffzy.com, 2023. Mon. 20 Mar. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-radiation-and-chemotherapy-809>.

Edited by

Share this article