Radiotherapy is sometimes given with chemotherapy. This is called chemoradiation. It is used as the main treatment for some types of cancer. It can also be used before or after surgery.

What is chemoradiation?

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

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
  • for cancers that cannot be removed with surgery
  • before surgery, to help shrink the tumour. This is called neo-adjuvant treatment.
  • after surgery, to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. This is called adjuvant treatment.

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.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 June 2022
Next review: 01 June 2025
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

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