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Radiation vs. Infusion vs. Chemotherapy: A Primer

A cancer diagnosis can be frightening and challenging for anyone; it does not have to be though.  As a patient learns more about their cancer diagnosis and treatment options, it can become much easier to face the challenge head-on. Knowledge and understanding does not just calm our fears, it can build our confidence. With this in mind, we thought we would take a moment today to briefly discuss three words you may often associate with modern cancer services: “radiation,” “infusion,” and “chemotherapy.” Any one or even all three of these words may be included as a part of a patient’s care at Southeastern Med’s Cancer Center.  No one option is necessarily superior to another. Recognizing the differences and connections between the words, however, is a great first step for any prospective patient with cancer and their loved ones.

First, we’ll talk about Radiation Therapy. According to Southeastern Med’s Director of Cancer Services, Dominic Crock, this type of treatment generally involves the use of a linear accelerator to precisely provide radiation to the targeted area in the body where a tumor has been found. “The treatment’s goal is to destroy the cancer cells while minimizing any sacrifice of good cells,” he says. Southeastern Med’s new cancer center features the newest model of linear accelerator available. The new linear accelerator is on par with those found at larger cancer treatment centers.

There are three types of radiation therapy used in cancer treatment. The first, External Beam, involves using a machine to send beams of radiation directly into a tumor. The other methods in this category are Internal Radiation (in which radiation is placed inside the body, near a tumor, in a solid or liquid form) and Systematic Radiation (a pill or liquid form of radiation that’s either injected into the body or taken orally).

Radiation therapy can be a stand-alone cancer treatment or used in combination with chemotherapy, depending on a patient’s specific situation. It tends to have fewer side effects than chemotherapy, since it is focused to an area.  However, some patients do experience digestive problems, hair loss, fatigue, and sexual dysfunction after radiation therapy.

For some patients, Chemotherapy may be determined to be the best course of action for their cancer treatment. “Chemotherapy is a chemical way to kill cancer cells in the body,” Crock explains. “It can be administered via pills similarly like taking Tylenol or Ibuprofen, with significantly different side effects.  It can also be infused. Each chemotherapy drug has a specific protocol for how it should be given based on research findings from the manufacturer.  These findings then compiled and published by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). These guidelines change often as new research is published and cancer research is ongoing.

Chemotherapy treatments are given in interval cycles, with return sessions often required every few weeks to ensure cancer cells are being attacked through different stages in their development. Side effects can be common as these sessions progress, with many patients experiencing considerable hair loss, as well as severe fatigue, nausea, mouth and throat sores, anemia, diarrhea, and pain or numbness in the limbs.

Infusion, as Crock noted, is a way to administer chemotherapy intravenously (or through the veins). This method delivers the cancer drugs directly into a patient’s bloodstream. Infusion therapy can be helpful in a non-cancer context, as well, and has been used to treat other common conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Our new Cancer Center will be twice the size of our current location offering more space to treat patients, including a state of the art Linear accelerator, resource rooms for education and additional services.  Our goal is to offer the same quality care you will find in Columbus or Cleveland.  We are nationally accredited by the Commission on Cancer (CoC) and the National Accreditation Program of Breast Centers (NAPBC).  Receiving one accreditation is a big deal; receiving dual accreditations is a HUGE accomplishment especially for a community hospital. We have accomplished this due to the high quality of care and dedication given by our providers.  Their commitment to this community is amazing and shows in our cancer care.

To find out more about our cancer services or to discuss all available treatment options, contact Southeastern Med today at 740-439-2771