© 2019 Author(s). Physically or externally stimulated nanostructures often employ multimodality and show encouraging results at preclinical stage in cancer therapy. Specially designed smart nanostructures such as hybrid nanostructures are responsive to external physical stimuli such as light, magnetic field, electric, ultrasound, radio frequency, X-ray, etc. These physically responsive nanostructures have been widely explored as nonconventional innovative "nanotheranostics" in cancer therapies. Physically stimulated (particularly magnetic and light) nanotheranostics provide a unique combination of important properties to address key challenges in modern cancer therapy: (i) an active tumor targeting mechanism of therapeutic drugs driven by a physical force rather than passive antibody matching, (ii) an externally/remotely controlled drugs on-demand release mechanism, and (iii) a capability for advanced image guided tumor therapy and therapy monitoring. Although primarily addressed to the scientific community, this review offers valuable and accessible information for a wide range of readers interested in the current technological progress with direct relevance to the physics, chemistry, biomedical field, and theranostics. We herein cover magnetic and light-triggered modalities currently being developed for nonconventional cancer treatments. The physical basis of each modality is explained; so readers with a physics or, materials science background can easily grasp new developments in this field.