The Effects of Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy Given Together

OncoLink
Last Modified: May 8, 2012

Question

My doctor wants me to take chemo and radiation at the same time. Won't this make me too sick?

Answer

Ursina Teitelbaum, MD, Medical Oncologist at Penn Medicine responds:

When we deliver chemo-radiotherapy, the chemotherapy is dosed lower than we treat with chemotherapy alone. My patients have very few side effects attributable to the chemotherapy itself at these low, radiation sensitizing doses, although it may contribute to feeling of overall fatigue. We are very experienced at helping patients through combined chemotherapy and radiation and offer IV fluids if needed as well as nutritional support. I have many patients that are able to keep working if they were working before, depending on the timing of their radiation treatment. It is usually the most difficult for the final 2 weeks and sometimes for the 2 weeks after completion of therapy so it is important to manage your expectation about how well you will feel during this time. We are usually able to keep people feeling well enough and avoid treatment delays or hospitalizations. Please keep in mind that the chemotherapy administered is at a fraction of standard doses and serves only to make the radiation work better.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire transcript from the Focus on Pancreatic Cancer Webchat.

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