What to Expect During Chemotherapy and Radiation Treatment

3 minute read

According to a new report released by the CDC, 66 percent of Americans with an invasive form of cancer have a 5 year or more survival rate. This is largely due to early detection and advanced treatment options, such as more potent chemotherapy and radiation therapy. If you have been diagnosed with cancer and plan to undergo chemo and/or radiation as part of your treatment, it is important to know what to expect.


?While radiation therapy is targeted toward a specific area of the body, chemotherapy acts throughout the body to identify and eradicate any cell, such as cancer cells, that quickly grow within the body. Unfortunately, this can also affect healthy cells-such as bone marrow, skin, intestines, and hair-and result in a number of side effects.

When learning what to expect during chemotherapy, it is important to remember that situations vary based on the type and stage of cancer you have,your current and past health, and your overall treatment goal.The medication or combination of medications, how it is administered (a gel or cream applied to the skin, a capsule, an injection, or an infusion), and how frequently you receive, as well as how long you receive treatment is dependent on a number of factors. This includes the type of cancer you have, where you will be receiving treatment (at home, the hospital, or a doctor's office), and the type of insurance you have.

Your physician will prescribe a certain number of cycles (the number and specific days during which you will receive treatment, as well as those during which you won't). For example, you may be ordered a 3 week cycle that includes 1 week of daily chemo, 1 week of no treatment, and another week of daily chemo. The period without treatment is intended to give your healthy cells the opportunity to recover.

Side effects of chemo may include hair loss, extreme fatigue, frequent nausea, recurrent infections, and problems with your bladder and bowels. It is important to report your side effects so that your physician can help you manage them.


?Almost half of the individuals diagnosed with cancer are treated with radiation. This treatment requires the use of a radiation therapy machine to aim specified amounts of radiation at any part of the body where a tumor or cancer cells are located. As does chemo, radiation also affects healthy cells, though they are able to repair themselves. When a linear accelerator is used, radiation is completed externally and the patient isn't radioactive. Internal radiation therapy requires the implantation of radiation inside the body in close proximity to the cancer cells. How long it is left in is dependent upon the type of implant.

Radiation is typically performed 5 times a week for a period of 6 to 7 weeks, if the tumor is eradication. Although you may be in the treatment room for as long as 30 minutes, radiation usually only takes 1 to 2 minutes. Side effects are primarily limited to the area being treated, though fatigue is common for anyone receiving radiation. Your treatment team will provide specific instructions on how to take care of the treatment site.

Radiation and chemotherapy can be performed simultaneously or independent of each other. Both have enabled many cancer patients to live longer, healthier lives and have given them hope.


  1. http://time.com/3742308/americans-cancer-survival/#3742308/americans-cancer-survival/
  2. http://www.webmd.com/cancer/chemotherapy-what-to-expect?page=2
  3. http://www.uihealthcare.org/radiation-therapy-what-to-expect/