Free Cancer Report

Know Your Cancer

Advantages and Disadvantages of Radiation Therapy

The advantages of Radiation therapy include:

  • Death of a significant proportion of cancer cells within the entire tumour
  • Death of cancer at the edge of the tumour that will not be apparent to the naked eye (e.g. at the time of surgery)
  • Ability to compress tumours (which may serve to alleviate mass effect; or it may be performed before treatment, to move those patients from unresectable to resectable status)
  • Relative protection for the patient (radiation can be administered from outside of the body and concentrated on the tumour, is painless, and usually does not require anaesthesia)
  • Synergy with systemic therapy(i.e. the potential to kill more cells together than any therapy could do alone)
  • Organ protection (e.g. not removing a breast, larynx, or part of the gastrointestinal tract, which would have substantial negative effects on a patient's quality of life
  • Possible activation of an immune response against the tumour

The disadvantages of Radiation therapy include:

  • Damage to underlying tissues ( e.g. lung, heart), depending on how close the region of interest is situated to the tumour
  • Inability to kill tumour cells that cannot be seen on imaging scans and are therefore not always included on the 3D models ( e.g. in nearby lymph nodes; metastatic disease) of radiation planning
  • Inability to destroy all cancer cells in tumours (this is true in especially large tumours)
  • Inability to alleviate mass effect ( i.e. the pressing of the tumour on underlying normal structures) in some areas of the body (e.g. brain), thus requiring surgery
  • Poor killing of cancer cells in areas that do not have a sufficient supply of oxygen (e.g. in an area following surgery; in a limb with low blood supply)
  • Increased occurrence of wound infection and poor healing (e.g. if Surgery is used after radiation; or in sections without sufficient circulation)
  • The inconvenience of Radiation therapy ( e.g. in some cases it must be delivered daily, 5 days per week, for 1-2 months)
  • Contraindications of Radiation therapy ( e.g. prior exposure; other medical disorders)