Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Treatment modalities

Cancer is treated in several ways, depending on each person’s medical condition and type of cancer. Common treatments involve chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Other treatments include surgery and biological therapies.

For many people with cancer, treatment is a process that is designed to meet their needs. Physicians plan treatments based on several key factors, such as the type and stage of the cancer, as well as the person’s age, health and lifestyle. If you have been diagnosed with cancer, it is important for you to know that you play an important role in the treatment process. Offering input, asking questions and expressing your concerns about treatment can help make treatment a better experience.

There is a great deal of information to learn about the cancer treatment process, including various cancer treatment options — their goals and side effects.

If you cannot find the information in which you are interested, please visit Types of Cancer A-Z resource for additional information on that topic.

Cancer treatment terms you should know

  • Combined modality therapy – a term used to describe when physicians choose more than one therapy in treating a patient, such as a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
  • Adjuvant therapy – a term used to describe when physicians choose more than one therapy in treating a patient. However, the term adjuvant therapy is more specifically used to describe treatment given after the primary cancer treatment is completed to improve the chance of a cure. For example, if the physician wants to treat cancer cells that may be present, he or she may prescribe one or more additional treatments.
  • Neoadjuvant therapy – a term used to describe when physicians choose to use more than one therapy in treating a patient. However, the term neoadjuvant therapy is more specifically used to describe cancer treatment given before the primary therapy — both to kill any cancer cells and contribute to the effectiveness of the primary therapy.