Radiotherapy may sometimes be given with chemotherapy. Doctors call this chemoradiation.

What is chemoradiation?

Having chemotherapy at the same time as radiotherapy is called chemoradiation.

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells.

The chemotherapy drugs can make cancer cells more sensitive to radiotherapy. Combining both treatments is often more effective than having either treatment on its own.

When is chemoradiation used?

This treatment is only helpful for certain types of cancer, so it is not suitable for everyone. Depending on the type of cancer, you may have chemoradiation:

  • as your main treatment for cancer
  • after surgery, to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.

We may have more about chemoradiation in our information about different types of cancer.

Side effects of chemoradiation

We have more information about the side effects of radiotherapy and the side effects of chemotherapy.

Giving chemotherapy and radiotherapy together can make the side effects of treatment worse. Your doctor or specialist nurse will give you more information about chemoradiation and the possible side effects.

Always tell your doctor, specialist nurse or radiographer about any side effects so they can help.

How we can help

How to print a PDF from this website
Instructions on how you can make a PDF version of this page using the print function on your browser.
Macmillan Cancer Support Line
The Macmillan Support Line offers confidential support to people living with cancer and their loved ones. If you need to talk, we'll listen.
0808 808 00 00
7 days a week, 8am - 8pm
Email us
Get in touch via this form
Chat online
7 days a week, 8am - 8pm
Online Community
An anonymous network of people affected by cancer which is free to join. Share experiences, ask questions and talk to people who understand.
Help in your area
What's going on near you? Find out about support groups, where to get information and how to get involved with Macmillan where you live.