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 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 booklet.


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.

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.

Palliative care

Palliative care aims to enhance quality of life and allow people to maintain their independence. Palliative care can help reduce cancer symptoms such as pain, fatigue and nausea and can also be used to reduce side effects from treatment. Palliative care can be started at any stage after a cancer diagnosis.

See our understanding palliative care booklet.