Abstract Objective: Malignant tumors pose a serious threat to human life and health. Despite recent developments in modern medical techniques, the early diagnosis and treatment of tumors remain difficult due to their asymptomatic nature in the early stages of disease and the limitations in current clinical diagnostic methods. Advancements in nanotechnology, particularly in the area of multi-functional diagnostic nanomaterials, can help effectively resolve present inadequacies via concurrently achieving early diagnosis, image-guided intervention, and real-time monitoring and treatment of tumors. The development of nanomaterials and nanotechnology may also aid in the area of anti-cancer drug development by improving the safety and side-effect profile, as well as by enhancing the targeted specificity of the drugs, which are two of the long-standing challenges in Western medicine. The progress in the field of nanomaterials has also uncovered novel approaches for the clinical application of traditional Chinese medicine because the combination of traditional Chinese medicine components with nanoparticles overcomes various drawbacks, including poor water solubility, low bioavailability, and short half-life, of the former. Moreover, nanoparticles also enhance the biological effectiveness and targeted specificity of these medicines. In this review, we discuss the application of nanoparticles in the early diagnosis and treatment of tumors, through modern and traditional medicine.