Cancer treatments

Treatment of your cancer will depend on the type and extent of your disease.
Some options are outlined below, but you will be guided by your specialist.


  • Surgery aims to remove the tumour and helps to ascertain how dangerous it is and how far it has spread.
  • Surgical techniques are now less and less invasive, so that now the tumour can be cut out with careful precision without removing whole organs.

  • Laparoscopic surgery enables smaller-sized cancers to be extracted through smaller incisions and this helps there to be less postoperative complications.
  • Some cancers, such as some skin cancers, are burnt off with what is called "ablation"
  • Surgery is usually followed by others treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy in order to prevent recurrence and spread.


  • Chemotherapy provides drugs which destroy the cancerous cells .
  • The type (oral tablets or intravenous injections) and number of drugs, the regime and duration of the treatment varies according to each cancer, and your individual treatment plan will be decided by your specialists in a multidisciplinary meeting.
  • Chemotherapy is generally given after surgery to minimise the risk of recurrence.
  • Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy is when treatment is given prior to surgery to shrink the cancer beforehand.

Where are chemotherapy sessions carried out?

Treatments can be carried out :
  • During a hospital stay for up to a few days
  • During a day visit to hospital
  • At your home

Side-effects of chemotherapy

  • Side-effects have reduced significantly as new treatments are introduced.
  • However, they can still occur and cause distress and anxiety.
  • You may be given medication to reduce any possible side-effects such as:
    • nausea and vomiting,
    • Hair loss
    • Reduced blood levels of red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets
    • Reduced or absent menstruation (periods) in women
    • Sore and inflamed throat and mouth
  • Dry and/or itchy skin
    • Brittle or discoloured nails
    • Diarrhoea or constipation


  • Radiotherapy destroys cancer cells by radiation and also prevents new cancer from developing.
  • The total amount of radiation you will receive will depend on your condition and the type of cancer involved.
  • Radiotherapy can be used before a surgical operation in order to reduce the tumour size or after the operation to destroy the cancerous cells which were not removed, in order to avoid recurrence.
  • Usually, you will have 5 sessions per week for one or two months.
  • Each session lasts approximately fifteen minutes.
  • Treatments vary according to the type of energy and radiation used.
  • Do not apply anything on the treated zone without medical advice.
  • Do not wear perfume or cologne during treatment.

Side effects of radiotherapy

  • Side effects vary from one individual to another.
  • The following symptoms can appear:
    • Minor burns
    • Vomiting
    • Hair loss
    • Reduced appetite

Hormone therapy

  • Some cancers rely on certain hormones to grow, and therefore hormone therapy targets and blocks the receptors for these hormones to try to stop the cancer from growing.
  • In breast cancer , hormone therapy blocks oestrogen receptors.
  • In prostate cancer, hormone therapy blocks androgen receptors.

Side effects of hormone therapy

  • Hormone therapy for prostate cancer can cause impotence.
  • Breast cancer hormone treatment can cause hot flushes and abnormalities in menstruation.
  • Certain drugs can cause an increased risk of developing a blood clot


Immunotherapy stimulates your normal immune system to try to fight better against the cancer and destroy it.

Other treatments

Radioactive iodine

  • Radioactive iodine is used in the treatment of thyroid cancer
  • Cancer of the thyroid requires the total destruction of the thyroid gland.
  • A daily iodine tablet is vital even after surgery.

Stem Cell therapy

  • Stem Cell therapy involves using human cells to prevent and/or treat a disease.
  • It is currently for bone marrow transplants.
  • The possibility of injecting stem cells that stimulate the immune system could enable us to vaccinate against certain cancers in the future.


  • Tomotherapy is a new method of radiotherapy which is more accurate but only offered in a few places.
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