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cancer treatment


After you have been diagnosed, your medical team will talk with you about the type of treatment you're going to receive. Your team will work together to decide on the best combination of treatments for you as an individual, to target your cancer and to suit your situation.


You and the people close to you should be involved in these discussions. Check out our section on advocating for yourself for more about how to be involved.


This is general information to give you some understanding of what’s happening. Talk to your doctors or medical team if you have specific questions or concerns.

types of cancer treatment

Common types of cancer treatment include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Most people have a combination of these. There are also other procedures like bone marrow transplants or stem cell therapy, which are not as common, or only used for certain cancers.


For more information on the different types of treatment, check out the Cancer Council's information on types of cancer and other cancer-specific organisations.

complementary therapy and cancer

You may hear the terms “complementary” and “alternative” therapies (CAMs) used when talking about treatment. Complementary therapies are used alongside conventional medicine given by your doctor. Alternative therapies are used instead of conventional medicine.


Some CAMs like yoga, meditation or art therapy are used to help promote wellbeing. The benefits of some CAMs are supported by evidence, while some aren’t. Some can actually be harmful. It’s a very good idea to discuss any CAMs you’re considering with your medical team to make sure they don’t interfere with your treatment.

clinical trials

A clinical trial is a research study aimed at finding new or better ways to treat or even prevent cancer. These trials go through stages and are only offered to people after lots of earlier research and planning. Clinical trials test new drugs or other treatments to see how well they work.


You could be asked to take part in a clinical trial as part of your treatment. This can be daunting and often people worry that they may not get “proper” treatment if they agree to take part. At the same time, clinical trials are how treatments are improved and they can mean that you’re getting access to the latest treatments.


It’s very important to make a fully informed decision about participating in a clinical trial. Have a discussion with your cancer care team, and don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you feel you need to.

side effects

One of the most confronting things about treatment is the side effects. Some common side effects of treatment can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hair loss
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Feeling constantly tired
  • Mouth ulcers
  • “Chemo brain” (problems with concentration or memory)

While they can be awful, many side effects are short term. Your medical team will be able to suggest ways to help deal with them.


That said, depending on your cancer and treatment, there’s a chance you could also have longer term or permanent side effects like hearing loss, fertility issues, or heart and lung problems. But there are steps you can take to lessen these.


The first thing to do is talk to your medical team about what your side effects might be. They’ll be able to recommend ways to prevent them or lessen their severity.


You can also find out more about other people's experiences and approaches to side effects on the websites listed on our resources page.

sticking with treatment

Cancer treatment can be hard, both physically and emotionally. It’s okay for you to sometimes question if you can cope. Sometimes it can be hard to tell if the benefits outweigh the negatives.


Treatment can hurt, make you feel worse, stop you looking or feeling like yourself, and sometimes just be really inconvenient. We understand that missing exams, graduations, formals, or other big events can make your life seem even more difficult. Talk to your medical team and tell them your concerns. Together you can work out a treatment plan that takes the things you want to do into account.


Whatever your situation, we know the decision to stick with treatment may not be simple. The Redkite support team can help you to think this through and support you in talking with your doctors and family.

Last updated September 2015.