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A 36-year-old member asked:

Can you tell me exactly when is radiation therapy used to treat cancer and when is chemotherapy used?

3 doctor answers7 doctors weighed in
Dr. Barry Rosen
General Surgery 34 years experience
Local v. Systemic Rx: Cancer rx involves treating the organ where the cancer developed (local rx) as well as any cancer cells that may have broken away from the organ of origin and travelled elsewhere in the body (systemic rx). In general, surgery and radiation therapy are local rx whereas chemotherapy is designed to circulate throughout the body and kill cancer cells. Ideally, these 3 modalities work together for cure.
Dr. Hung Khong
Medical Oncology 27 years experience
It depends: In early stage cancer (more likely to be cured), radiation therapy is often used with chemotherapy and rarely by itself. Chemo can be used by itself for curative purpose. In advanced cancer (unlikely to be cured), radiation can be used with or without chemotherapy mainly to palliate or alleviate symptoms such as bone pain. Chemo by itself can be used to alleviate symptoms and/or prolong survival.
Dr. Chakshu Gupta
Pathology 23 years experience
Guideline based: Some tumors respond better to one or the other, or they may need to be given together or sequentially. The choice is mostly based on standard guidelines (nccn) that are evidence based with some degree of physician or institutional variation.

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A 38-year-old member asked:

When is radiation therapy used in treating cancer and when is chemotherapy used?

2 doctor answers5 doctors weighed in
Dr. Andrew Turrisi
Radiation Oncology 47 years experience
Disease tells: What modalities to use. You left out surgery, but with c and rt these are used alone, sequentially or at the same time. Leukemia and lymphoma has very little need for surgery, and increasingly littl for xrt. All are used in lung, breast, colorectal, brain, h&n and most GI cancers. Little role for chemo in early prostate cancer where s and XRT are competitive.

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Last updated Dec 7, 2019

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