Cancer Council Australia

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about this glossary tool

There are various approaches to treating cancer, many of which involve combinations of therapies to provide the most effective treatment.

Your doctor should discuss treatment options with you and explain the benefits and risks involved. Following is an overview of some cancer treatments. For information about treating specific cancers see types of cancer


It will also relieve discomfort from tumours that are obstructing organs or causing bleeding. Surgery is often used in combination with radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy to make sure that any cancer cells remaining in the body are removed.

See our understanding surgery booklet.


Radiotherapy (also called radiation therapy or x-ray therapy) uses high energy radiation to destroy cancer cells or impede their growth. It is commonly delivered externally, through the skin. However, it can be administered internally (brachytherapy) with the placement of small sources of radioactive material in or near the cancer. Radiotherapy is used:

  • as a curative treatment, often in association with other approaches
  • to relieve pain and discomfort associated with incurable disease.

See our understanding radiotherapy fact sheet.


Chemotherapy is almost always used in combination with other treatments; it is not curative for most solid cancers when used alone.

Many cancers rely on particular hormones to be able to grow. These cancers can often be controlled by drugs that suppress the body's hormone production or block the effect of the hormone on tumour cells.

See our understanding chemotherapy fact sheet.   

Hormone therapy

Hormone therapy can also involve the surgical removal of hormone producing glands to control cancer growth. These treatments are commonly used for prostate, breast and uterine cancers. 

Complementary and alternative therapies

Complementary therapies are used alongside conventional medicine and can help support and enhance cancer patients’ quality of life and improve well-being. Alternative therapies are used instead of conventional medicine and are not recommended by Cancer Council Australia.

See our understanding complementary therapies booklet.

This page was last updated on: Tuesday, May 10, 2016