Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy: Deadly Solutions to Cancer

Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy: Deadly Solutions to Cancer

As widely known, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are two of the most common types of therapies associated with cancer treatment. In this sense, most will probably associate both chemotherapy and radiation therapy to be completely beneficial to the individual being subjected under either therapies. However, even though the common public perception regarding the potential positive effects of both radiation therapy and chemotherapy as tools against cancer is with validity (Yarbro, Frogge, and Goodman 1626), it is also undeniable that side effects are present for each mode of therapy mentioned. To expound, both radiation therapy (American Cancer Society [ACS] “Possible Side Effects”) and chemotherapy (ACS “What are the”) have a list of side effects or negative effects which may manifest on the patient being treated. Therefore, it is irrefutable that both radiation therapy and chemotherapy have negative effects which may range from simple to severe side effects which are of course detrimental to the health of the individual being treated.

Simple Side Effects of Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy, which is done with the reason of destroying off cancer cells through the use of radiation, is not merely completed through several treatments but is rather made effective through recurring treatments (Dollinger et al. 62). In this sense, it may be perceived that as the number of exposure to radiation increases then the chances of developing the negative effects of the treatment may also be increased. Such a possibility of having a greater risk of developing side effects may not be a serious matter if simple side effects are taken into consideration exclusively. For example, fatigue is a common side effect associated with radiation therapy (ACS “Possible Side Effects”). In relation to this, fatigue is not a concern that is distinctively associated with the radiation therapy alone, as fatigue may be due to numerous factors. On a more specific sense, even experts in the field experience difficulty in assessing fatigue in the context of radiation therapy since other factors may be present which may also contribute to the development of the problem (ACS “Possible Side Effects”). Although fatigue may not be a serious concern for most, considering that patients that undergo radiation therapy are already at a considerably weakened state due to the development of cancer, then it may be possible that fatigue is of greater concern for the overall health and wellness of such individuals.

Aside from fatigue other changes may manifest on the individual under radiation therapy. One common side effect of radiation therapy, considering that treatment must be focused upon a single area, is the occurrence of skin damage in the form of erythema (Dollinger et al. 69). Apparently, since radiation therapy utilizes high powered forms of radiation, direct skin damage results similar to prolonged exposure to the sun. Specifically, erythema signifies several phases in which an area of the skin may initially develop symptoms such as redness up to eventual forms of the problem which involves the removal of irritated skin portions (Dollinger et al. 69). Another simple side effect that is commonly associated with radiation therapy is hair loss. In fact, it has been determined that the degree of exposure to the radiation, especially upon the head area, is directly correlated with the severity of hair loss that an individual may experience (Dollinger et al. 70). This problem or side effect, although mainly aesthetic in nature is expectedly a serious concern for those undergoing cancer treatment. Such changes in their appearances, expectedly affect the manner in which cancer patients may perceive themselves and may directly affect their sense of hope against cancer.

Severe Side Effects of Radiation Therapy

As pointed out, there are numerous forms of simple side effects which are associated with radiation therapy which of course are also associated with difference repercussions for the patient. In contrast to such simple side effects though, severe negative effects of radiation therapy may further cripple the patient and may even provide other problems which are comparable to cancer. For one, fertility may be compromised due to the damaging effects of radiation on the reproductive organs of both genders (ACS “Possible Side Effects”). In relation to this, such a potential side effect will definitely be detrimental to individuals that are undergoing radiation therapy may have to go through with the risk of having one of their organ systems completely nullified or rendered useless. The most striking of all risks in relation to radiation therapy is in fact related to the problem that it attempts to address. Although pointed out to be quite rare, it has still been established that exposure to radiation is a risk factor in the development of cancer (ACS “Possible Side Effects”). In this sense, even though an individual may aim to eliminate cancer through such means, it is also a possibility that other forms of cancer may develop during the course of treatment.

Simple Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Having discussed the possible side effects associated with radiation treatment, it is only proper to assess or enumerate the side effects linked with the process of chemotherapy in the same manner, specifically by first pointing out the milder negative effects of the process. For one, similar to radiation therapy, hair loss may be experienced by patients undergoing chemotherapy; the key difference between the two however is that unlike the hair loss in radiation therapy which is mainly associated with treatments near the head, hair loss as a result of chemotherapy is more progressive and affects all hair throughout the body (Dollinger et al. 81). Given that chemotherapy entails the use of numerous chemicals to be taken into the body, then it is highly understandable why such a non specific manner of effect may manifest. In relation to this, damage to numerous other parts of the body is also a possible result of opting to undergo chemotherapy. As a matter of fact, chemotherapy may also result to detrimental effects on the urinary system (Klastersky, Schimpff, and Senn 287) along with the possibility of developing toxic effects to the heart (Klastersky, Schimpff, and Senn 282).

Severe Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Compared to the number of severe side effects associated with radiation therapy, it is easily assessed that the number and variety of severe side effects that are associated with chemotherapy is much greater. Immediate severe reactions in relation to chemotherapy procedures are quite numerous, and physicians have pointed out that fever, blood loss through various outlets, allergies, and unspecific or specific periods of pain are some of the adverse effects which someone undergoing chemotherapy must take note of (Bruning 123). Aside from such possible adverse effects, which may be quite alarming yet may be resolved upon physician intervention, some side effects of chemotherapy are considered to be generally irreversible. An example of such a side effect is damage to the brain, specifically to the cerebellum of the patient (Klastersky, Schimpff, and Senn 293). Since the brain is considered as the center of control in terms of both voluntary and involuntary aspects of the body, then considering the possibility of the brain being crippled due to chemotherapy is truly understandable. In fact, in the event that toxicity in the brain has been developed by the patient, then problems such as nerve and speaking dysfunctions may arise which can no longer be solved using any current means in medicine (Klastersky, Schimpff, and Senn 293).

An even more serious and more often observed negative manifestation of the effects of chemotherapy is in terms of its compromising effect upon the bone marrow; considering that the bone marrow is the main source of cells that form the different types of blood cells along with cells for immune responses then having a negative effect upon the bone marrow is truly a serious concern (ACS “What are the”). Expectedly, since the blood, along with the other components formed through the bone marrow are of vital importance to the overall function and protection of the body, then the individual will of course be heavily affected by such a side effect. To expound, overall immunity to diseases along with the capability to effectively accomplish regenerative functions in response to physical trauma are all minimized during the presence of chemotherapy (ACS “What are the”). As a final note, chemotherapy, just like radiation therapy, has been determined to potentially cause additional cancers which have been assessed to increase in terms of the rate of occurrence in the continuous presence of the chemicals during treatment (Yarbro, Frogge, and Goodman 504).


In general, both radiation therapy and chemotherapy are not limited in terms of the number of possible side effects or negative effects which may be brought upon an individual during episodes of treatment. Also, it must be understood that although there have been numerous examples pointed out throughout the discussion, the side effects discussed are not representative of the complete list of possible negative effects upon the patient. In this sense, even though both methods of treatment are linked with the possibility of eliminating and slowing down cancer (Yarbro, Frogge, and Goodman 1626), there truly is an evident risk associated with such modes of treatment. Therefore, it is indeed true that radiation therapy and chemotherapy are both potentially dangerous options for cancer treatment due to the presence of numerous negative effects both simple and severe in nature.

Works Cited

American Cancer Society. “Possible Side Effects of Radiation Therapy.” Making Treatment

Decisions. 7 April 2008. 6 July 2009 <>.

– – -. “What Are the Possible Side Effects of Chemotherapy?” Making

Treatment Decisions. 8 August 2008. 6 July 2009 <>.

Bruning, Nancy. Coping With Chemotherapy: Compassionate Advice and Authoritative

Information from a Chemotherapy Supervisor. New York, NY: Penguin Group USA, 2002.

Dollinger, Malin, Ernest H. Rosenbaum, Margaret Tempero, and Sean J. Mulvihill.

Everyone’s Guide to Cancer Therapy: How Cancer is Diagnosed, Treated, and Managed from Day to Day. 4th Edition. Kansan City, MO: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2002.

Klastersky, Jean, Stephen C. Schimpff, and Hans-Jorg Senn. Supportive Care in Cancer: A

Handbook for Oncologists. 2nd Edition. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker, 1999.

Yarbro, Connie Henke, Margaret Hansen Frogge, and Michelle Goodman. Cancer Nursing:

Principles and Practice. 6th Edition. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2005.

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