Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Australia, but fewer people are dying of cancer than 20 years ago thanks to early detection and innovative treatments. However, it still afflicts millions around the world and causes a huge strain on patients and health systems (Oliver et al, 1992; Blazeby et al, 2005).

It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of cancer and visit your doctor as soon as you notice them. However, many cancers are present for months or even years before they are detected by your doctor, and some are not diagnosed at all. That’s why it’s so important to be proactive about your health and see your doctor for annual physicals and regular blood work. It’s also important to report any new or unusual signs or symptoms that may arise.

There are a variety of treatment options for cancer, and your doctor will discuss the ones that are right for you. They will take into account the type of cancer you have, its stage and your overall health. These treatments can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and/or immunotherapy.

Chemotherapy is one of the most common types of cancer treatment and involves using anti-cancer drugs to kill fast-growing cancer cells. This can help treat your cancer, prevent it from coming back, and reduce or relieve pain and other cancer-related symptoms.

Radiation therapy, also known as radiotherapy, uses high-energy rays to kill or damage cancer cells. It can be delivered externally via a large machine that is placed outside your body, or internally using a small device placed in your body near the cancer.

Surgery is an option for almost all types of cancer and can be used to remove tumors, reduce the size of a tumor or ease other cancer-related symptoms. It is usually combined with other treatments, but can be done alone for certain cancers.

Immunotherapy uses the immune system to fight cancer or can help control side effects of other treatments. It is a relatively new field of medical research and shows promise for improving cancer survival. Other experimental treatments are aimed at enlisting the mind’s power in the battle against cancer, with techniques such as meditation and visualization. These are part of a growing area of scientific study called psychoneuroimmunology, which focuses on the influence that thoughts and emotions have on the body’s ability to fight disease.