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Nurses Tending Young Patients with Poliomyelitis in an Iron Lung, 1938.

Radiation or Chemotherapy?

There's an old joke that says if a radiation oncologist had been assigned to find a cure for polio...then today we would have the world's fanciest iron lungs!

Radiation is a local treatment and is most useful to treat a specific, localized tumor. If the real risk to the patient is cancer throughout the body then chemotherapy is obviously more logical (sometimes called systemic therapy.)

In many patients both problems (local and distant) need to be considered and commonly patients need both local treatment (radiation or surgery) plus chemotherapy. This is often described as combined modality therapy (CMT.)