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Health Information For Parents
Radiation therapy is a treatment for cancer. It works by preventing cancer cells from growing and by destroying them.
The high-energy radiation used comes from:
Radiation therapy is also called radiotherapy, irradiation, or X-ray therapy.
Radiation therapy can be either:
External radiation therapy uses a large machine and special equipment to carefully aim the right amount of radiation at cancerous tumors.
With internal radiation therapy, doctors inject or implant a radioactive substance into the area with the tumor or cancer cells. In some cases, the patient swallows the material.
Some kids may need both external radiation and internal radiation.
Besides killing cancer cells and shrinking tumors, radiation therapy also can harm normal cells. Normal cells are more likely to recover from its effects. The health care team will carefully check a child’s radiation doses to protect healthy tissue.
For external radiation therapy, kids usually go to the hospital or treatment center 4 to 5 days a week for several weeks. They’ll get small daily doses of radiation, which helps protect the normal cells from damage. The weekend breaks help the cells recover from the radiation.
Before the treatment, the radiation therapist will mark an area on the skin with ink. This “tattoo” helps show the treatment area.
Most of the time that a child spends on the radiation treatment table involves positioning. The treatment itself takes only minutes. When the child is in the right position:
Parents aren’t allowed in the treatment room, but can wait nearby for their child during therapy.
Most children who get internal radiation treatment stay in the hospital for several days. The radioactive material is:
Doctors might do a minor surgery using anesthesia to place the material (for example, when treatment is in the uterus, esophagus, or airway).
Internal radiation therapy is also called brachytherapy, interstitial therapy, or implant therapy.
Parents may wonder whether they can touch, hug, and care for their child during and after therapy.
Radiation can damage healthy cells. This damage can cause side effects such as skin problems, tiredness, and anemia. The type of side effects someone might get depends on the dose of radiation, whether it was internal or external, and the area treated.
Many patients have no side effects. When problems do happen:
It may help to take a tour of the radiation department to see the radiation technologists and equipment so your child can get familiar with them.
When your child asks questions about cancer or treatment, be honest. Use age-appropriate terms and encourage your child to share his or her feelings.
And you don’t have to go it alone. The doctors, nurses, social workers, and other members of the cancer treatment team are there to help you and your child. Many resources are available to help your family get through this difficult time.
You also can find information and support online at:
Different kinds of childhood cancer have different signs, symptoms, treatments, and outcomes. But today, most kids with cancer get better.
Long-term side effects, or late effects, happen to many cancer survivors. With early diagnosis and proper follow-up care, most late effects can be treated or cured.
When chemotherapy and other treatments attack cancer cells, they can affect some of the body’s healthy cells too. As a teen, you’ll want to know what this can mean to your fertility.
While some cancer treatments have little to no effect on reproductive health, others are more likely cause temporary or permanent infertility.
If you’ve just finished a long hospital stay, you may have questions about reconnecting with friends and family. Get answers in this article for teens.
From treatments and prevention to coping with the emotional aspects of cancer, the Cancer Center provides comprehensive information that parents need.
Visit our Cancer Center for teens to get information and advice on treating and coping with cancer.
Cancer is a serious illness that needs special treatment. Find out more about how kids can cope with cancer.
Eating as well as possible and staying hydrated can help kids undergoing cancer treatment keep up their strength and deal with side effects. These tips can help.
It’s common to put your own needs last when caring for a child you love. But to be the best you can be, you need to take care of yourself, too. Here are some tips to help you recharge.
It’s normal for kids to have hair loss, skin changes, or weight gain during treatment. This article offers tips for helping kids feel better about their appearance.
When kids get cancer, it can often be treated and cured. Find out more in this article for kids.
Unlike the steroids that body builders use, steroids used in cancer treatment are safe and help kids feel better.
Get the basics on cancer and cancer treatments in this article.
Chemotherapy (chemo) is treatment with medicines that stop the growth of cancer cells.
Chemotherapy is a big word for treatment with medicines used to help people who have cancer. This medicine kills the cancer cells that are making the person sick.
More than half of all people with cancer are treated with radiation therapy. Get the facts on radiation therapy, including what it is, what to expect, and how to cope with side effects.
Chemotherapy (chemo) is treatment with medicines that stop the growth of cancer cells. Find out how chemo works and what to expect when getting treatment.
It’s unusual for teens to have cancer, but it can happen. The good news is that most will survive and return to their everyday lives. Learn about how to cope if you or someone you know has cancer.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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