Cancer treatments

There are many ways to treat cancer. The main treatments are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Many cancers can be fully cured, especially if they are found early.


Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells while doing the least possible damage to normal cells.

Depending on the type of cancer you have, chemotherapy may be the only treatment you need.

Chemotherapy — Cancer Society (external link)


Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that helps your own immune system to fight cancer. It is mostly used to treat cancer that has spread throughout the body.

Your immune system is how your body naturally protects you from disease by killing bacteria and germs.

Immunotherapy — Cancer Society (external link)

Radiation treatment

Radiation treatment uses radiation beams to destroy cancer cells or slow their growth. It is also called radiation therapy or radiotherapy.

Radiation treatment is carefully planned to affect only the part of the body at which the beams are aimed.

Radiation treatment — Cancer Society (external link)

Targeted treatments

Targeted treatment uses medicine to target specific genes or proteins either inside cancer cells or on their surface. 

Each medicine blocks a specific target, for example, a damaged gene or protein, on or within a cancer cell.

Targeted treatments — Cancer Society (external link)

Clinical trials

Clinical trials are part of the research to find new and better ways to treat cancer. There may be clinical trials of new and emerging cancer treatments available that you could join.

Clinical trials for cancer treatment — Cancer Society (external link)

Other therapies

Some people may choose to use complementary therapies or traditional healing (rongoā Māori) alongside conventional treatments to help manage cancer symptoms and the side-effects of treatment.

Alternative therapies are used instead of conventional medicines and treatments.

There is no evidence that any type of complementary or alternative therapy prevents or cures cancer. They can also interfere with conventional cancer treatments.

Complementary, traditional and alternative therapies — Cancer Society (external link)