Advertisement

How do radiation and chemotherapy for breast cancer differ?

Shelby A. Terstriep, MD
Hematology
Radiation is used to treat the area where the breast cancer was removed to try to kill any cancer cell that may have escaped into that area. Its goal is to decrease the chance of the breast cancer coming back in that area. Chemotherapy goes throughout the body to try to kill any cancer cell that may have gone into the lymph system or blood system before it goes to any other organ.
Dr Camille
Oncology

Cancers are treated via 3 main modalities - Surgery, Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy. Chemotherapy is given via the blood vessels and has the ability to travel everywhere in the body that the blood flows (this can lead to symptoms such as losing hair, numbness of fingertips and toes, nausea, etc.,).

Radiation therapy, unlike chemotherapy, is a local treatment and does not travel everywhere in the body. In breast cancer, the radiation beams are focused only on the treated breast and symptoms are localized to the area in the path of the radiation beams. Early Symptoms (acute) are usually described as a modest sun burn a few weeks in to the treatment and late effects (chronic) are usually associated with the scarring effects from Radiation, months to years after treatment. You may also watch a video on the difference of the 2 treatments at the patient education website www.legacyeducators.com.

Radiation is a local treatment for the breast, and you would be treated in a radiation facility. Chemotherapy is administered through an intravenous (IV) line or sometimes by injections and treats the whole body.

Continue Learning about Breast Cancer Treatment

Targeted Therapy for Metastatic Breast Cancer
Targeted Therapy for Metastatic Breast Cancer
Targeted therapies are a type of cancer treatment that work by blocking or inhibiting the function of specific molecules found in cancer cells, which ...
Read More
How do bisphosphonates help breast cancer patients?
Dr. Vincent T DeVita JrDr. Vincent T DeVita Jr
Bisphosphonates are drugs that are used to help strengthen and reduce the risk of fractures in bones...
More Answers
What are the benefits of brachytherapy to treat breast cancer?
Ogden Regional Medical CenterOgden Regional Medical Center
Brachytherapy treatments for breast cancer are given twice a day. This usually involves 10 treatment...
More Answers
Does Breast Cancer Screening Have Value?
Does Breast Cancer Screening Have Value?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.