Treatments for cancer in children and teenagers


Your child´s treatment will depend on the stage, grade and type of cancer cells that they have. The stage looks at the size of the cancer and if it has spread. The grade can tell if the cancer grows quickly or slowly. Your child could have a low, moderate or high grade cancer.


The aim of surgery is to remove the cancer cells from your child´s body and the tissue around it. Surgery is possible if the tumour is found in one place only or if the lymph nodes nearby are involved. For more information, call the National Cancer Helpline 1800 200 700 and speak to a specialist nurse.


Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to cure or control cancer. These drugs can be given on their own or with each other. Many cancer patients receive a combination of two or three chemotherapy drugs. Chemotherapy can also be given before or after radiotherapy and surgery. The drugs can either be injected into the bloodstream or given in tablet form. Please see our Understanding Chemotherapy booklet, which you can download from our "Important cancer information booklets" list on the right hand side of this page, for more about chemotherapy.

Learn more about chemotherapy

Biological therapy

This therapy uses the body´s immune system to treat cancer. Biological therapies are often used with chemotherapy.

Learn more about biological therapy


Radiotherapy is the use of high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. These are aimed directly at the tumour. Please see our Understanding Radiotherapy booklet, which you can download from our "Important cancer information booklets" list on the right hand side of this page, for more about radiotherapy.

Learn more about radiotherapy

Advanced treatment

Advanced cancer means that the cancer has spread from the area where it first started. If it spreads in the area around the tumour, it is called local spread. If it spreads to other areas of the body, it is called secondary cancer or metastatic cancer.

It is usually not possible to cure advanced cancer. Treatment can be given to control the cancer and to improve your child´s quality of life. Treatments can involve surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and biological therapy, as mentioned above. Your child may also be seen by the palliative care team at this time. This team is there to help with any symptoms that may occur and to support your child and your family through treatment. For more information on palliative care, please see our booklet: Precious Times (pdf 1.1MB).

Learn more about treatments

Side effects

The type of side-effects your child will get depends on the type of treatment, the dose, the duration and their own general health. Your child´s doctor will discuss any likely side-effects before treatment. Some treatments may cause symptoms like less resistance to infection, nausea, loss of appetite or hair loss. Many treatments cause fatigue.

Some treatments can cause long-term side-effects such as damage to organs or infertility. Your child´s doctor will discuss this with you. Remember it is important to bring your child for regular check-ups once their treatment is over.

Learn more about side effects

Clinical trials

If a treatment looks like it might be helpful, it is given to patients in research studies called clinical trials. Trials may be taking place at the hospital you are attending. If you are interested in taking part, talk to your doctor. He or she can tell you if the trial would suit you or not.

Learn more about clinical trials

Call our National Cancer Helpline

Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse
It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 7pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm