How is cancer treated?

There are many ways to treat cancer and it can depend on the stage of your cancer and where the cancer is located in your body. The main treatments are surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy. If you have cancer, you might need one of these, or a combination of them. 

Your doctors will yarn with you about what treatments they recommend and what your options are best for you. Yarn with your doctor about any traditional healing, bush medicines, Women’s Business, Men’s Business and cultural practices you want to include in your treatment plan.

Yarn with your doctor, nurse or Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander health worker about which treatments you might have.

Find out more by clicking on the links below. 

What is treatment meant to do?

It is important for you to understand why you are getting the treatment your doctor recommends and how it is supposed to help you. Different treatments try to do different things. It depends on what cancer you have, where it is located in your body and whether it has spread, and what you want. Ask your doctor or specialist if the treatment they suggest:

  • is meant to cure you, by getting rid of the cancer and stopping it spreading, or
  • won’t cure you, but is meant to prolong your life, or make you feel better.

Your doctors will yarn with you and explain this. You can yarn with them and tell them what you think, and what you want. Some people will want to try everything possible to stay alive. Others want simpler treatments, or don’t want to leave Country for treatment, or don’t want any treatment. It’s your choice. You can also talk to another doctor to help you decide.

Deciding on treatment

It can take time to decide about treatment. There are usually some options to hear about and choices to make. Read more about treatment.

It can be helpful to write things down and have someone else come to appointments to help remember information.

Yarn with your doctor, specialist, nurse or Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander health worker. Other mob who have had cancer also say that yarning with trusted family and friends, Elders and counsellors can help when making decisions.

Cost of treatment

Always ask about the cost of treatment. Many treatments are free through public hospitals, but some are not. Yarn with your doctor, nurse or Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander health worker.

How long will treatment last?

It all depends on the type of treatment you’re having. Some people only have surgery which might only take a couple of hours while treatments such as hormone therapy can last for more than a year. Having a longer period of treatment does not mean you have a bad cancer. Every cancer is different and requires a different treatment.

After your treatment ends, your doctors will keep in touch with you for several years to check how you’re going. Your cancer journey is an opportunity to build trusted relationships with your medical team.