The difference between the types of cancer treatments
1st March, 2023
Article

Written by

Peter Daly - Solicitor

If you recently been diagnosed with cancer or know someone that has, it is likely that the doctor or nurse may have recommended a certain type of treatment. The type of cancer treatment given to a patient can depend on certain factors according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these are: 

  • The type of cancer  
  • The stage of cancer 

As well as these two factors, the doctor is also likely to take into consideration the patients age and any other health conditions they may have before deciding upon a treatment.  

On the whole, the type of treatment provided is largely dependent on what stage the cancer is at. This is because sometimes cancer treatment is designed to cure the cancer (curative), some are designed to stop the spread of cancer and others are used to reduced the side effect of the cancer (palliative). 

 

What are the different types of cancer treatment? 

There are various types of treatments that can be used to help treat or relieve the symptoms of a patient’s cancer. Some patients may only ever receive one individual treatment, others may receive multiple treatments as their health or stage of cancer changes. The treatments patients receive will usually be advised by a nurse or doctor, with the idea of giving the patient their best possible outcome. 

NHS Inform say that the following are common cancer treatments: 

  • Surgery: an operation to remove the cancer 
  • Radiotherapy: X-rays used to destroy cancer cells 
  • Chemotherapy: Use of drugs to destroy cancer cells 
  • Immunotherapy: the use of the immune system to help fight cancer cells 
  • Hormonal Therapy: reduces hormones in the body or prevents them reaching cancer cells 
  • Targeted Therapy: destroys cancer cells, usually by affecting the cancer’s chance to grow 
  • Stem cell & bone marrow treatments: high doses of ant-cancer drug or support the patients immune system to fight the cancer 

 

What is the difference between chemotherapy and radiotherapy? 

Chemotherapy is a treatment for cancer through which medicine is used to fight and kill cancer cells within the body. There are different types of chemotherapy, and according to the NHS, they all work in a similar way. Each type is designed to prevent cancer cells from reproducing, which then prevents the cells from reproducing and spreading around the body. 

Radiotherapy is thought to be the most effective cancer treatment according to the NHS and is usually used in the early stages of cancer or after the cancer has started to spread. Radiotherapy uses radiation in order to kill cancer cells. 

The main difference between chemotherapy and radiotherapy is, although both are designed to destroy cancer cells, chemotherapy uses drugs, whereas radiotherapy uses high volumes of x-rays/radiation to destroy the cells.  

According to WebMD, this leads to another difference between the two treatments. Chemotherapy and its use of drugs means that it is a systemic treatment, where the drugs work throughout the whole of the body and be administered via injections, infusions and oral medications. Radiotherapy on the other hand, is a local treatment which means it is more targeted and the treatment is directed to a specific region within the body to kill the cancer cells. 

Despite the differences, Macmillan Cancer Support say that the two treatments can actually be combined to create an effective treatment, this is called chemoradiation. Given the differences between the two therapies the idea behind chemoradiation is that the chemotherapy drugs are used to make the cancer cells more sensitive to radiation, meaning that the radiotherapy can destroy them. It is thought that using this combination of treatments can be more effective than having the treatments separately. 

 

What is the difference between chemotherapy and immunotherapy? 

As mentioned previously, chemotherapy is a method of destroying cancer cells through drugs. 

Immunotherapy uses the patient’s immune system to fight cancer say Cancer Research UK. This therapy works by supporting the immune system of the patient to recognise and destroy cancer cells. The patient may have immunotherapy on its own or combined with other cancer treatments. Immunotherapy is currently a standard treatment for some types of cancer and a trial treatment for other types. 

According to Cancer Treatment Centers of America, chemotherapy is a reactive treatment, in which the drugs used in the therapy is used to attack fast-growing cancer cells and by putting drugs into your body, the aim it to get all the cells at the same time. On the other hand, immunotherapy trains your immune system to identify cancer cells with the main goal being that your body will be able to fight the cancer itself. 

This means that the clear difference between chemotherapy and immunotherapy is that the drugs administered during chemotherapy are effective and while they remain within the body. However, following immunotherapy, the patient’s immune system may have been stimulated, meaning that cancer cells could potentially continue being destroyed after treatment has ended. Therefore, it is likely that chemotherapy has a more immediate impact at treating cancer, whereas immunotherapy is more effective over time. 

 

Have you suffered chemotherapy negligence? 

As medical negligence experts, we have experience in handling cases in relation to chemotherapy. An example of this is when a 77 year-old man received unnecessary chemotherapy. This happened when the hospital failed to diagnose his prostate cancer and as a result he was compensated £12,500. If your chemotherapy treatment has been negligent, we can support you through the legal process.  

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