For Children Not Receiving General Anesthesia

Last Modified: May 2, 2011

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Before Treatment and the Day of Treatment

Before Treatment: Things You Can Do

  • Do not use lotions or creams anywhere on the skin for four hours before the scheduled treatment.
  • As long as your child IS NOT getting general anesthesia, it's a good idea to eat something before treatment or to bring a snack to eat while you're waiting, or for after treatment.
  • Please bring a few helpful items with you to treatment, dependin on your child's age:
    • Ages four and below: Your child's favorite drink or snack. Anything else that will be a comfort to your child, such as a favorite toy, CD, or a blanket is fine to bring. Although there are storybooks and coloring books in the waiting areas, a favorite toy is helpful to pass the time. Ask the receptionist for crayons. Also, bring your stroller. Sometimes it is easier to bring your child back and forth in their stroller.
    • Older children and teenagers: Feel free to bring books, CDs, video games or any other items that will help them relax and pass the time.
  • All of the treatment rooms have CD players, so feel free to bring a favorite CD to listen to while receiving treatment. You can also ask your therapist to play one of the CDs that we have available. Headphones and ear buds are not permitted while treatment is being given. Listening to music during treatment can help your child to relax and make the time pass more quickly.
  • If your child is sick on the morning of treatment or does not look well, call the CHOP oncology triage nurse at 215.590.229. Sometimes, it is better that your child not have treatment that day. The decision to go ahead with treatment will be made by your radiation or CHOP oncologist. It may be better to wait a day or two.

Day of Treatment

For conventional radiation treatment, the actual treatment takes about 5 to 10 minutes. Intensity modulated radiation treatment (IMRT) takes about 20 to 30 minutes. Most people spend up to 1 ½ hours in Radiation Oncology on the day of treatment. Treatments are usually given once a day, Monday through Friday, for a number of weeks.

Once you arrive in Radiation Oncology, check in at the reception area. You will be able to accompany your child to the treatment room, however, you will not be able to go into the treatment room during treatment. We ask that you wait in the waiting room during the treatment due to the amount of radiation being given. These treatments are very different from X-rays and other procedures where you were allowed to stay with your child.

External radiation treatments are painless, but lying on the table may cause some discomfort. Tell your child to let the therapist know about any discomfort. As soon as the treatment is over you will be reunited with your child.

Depending on the treatment being given, this is generally what will happen during treatment:

  • Your child may need to undress. It is best to wear clothes that are easy to take on and off.
  • Depending on the treatment machine, the therapist may put special shields (or blocks) between the machine and other parts of the body to help protect normal tissues and organs.
  • Once your child is in the correct position, the therapist will go to an area right outside of the treatment room. This area is called the console area. After checking all the settings, they will turn on the machine.
  • Throughout the treatment, the therapist will watch your child on a TV screen.
  • Your child will be able to communicate with the therapist during treatment over an intercom system. Your child may also give a hand signal by waving to the therapist.
  • Your child will be asked to remain still and breathe normally during the treatment.
  • The radiation treatment machine will make clicking and whirring noises and sometimes sound like a vacuum cleaner as it moves.
  • The radiation therapist controls the movement of the machine and checks to be sure it is working properly.
  • If your child feels ill or uncomfortable during the treatment, they should tell the therapist at once.
  • If your child needs you during the actual treatment, the therapist will let you know.
  • Even though the effects of radiation are powerful, your child will not become permanently radioactive. External radiation treatment affects cells only for a moment. It is safe for them to be around other children and adults.
  • If you have questions about anything that happens in the treatment room, ask your therapist to explain.
  • Once a week, images (X-ray, CT scans) will be taken to ensure proper treatment positioning. These images will also be taken if there is a change in the treatment field or plan. The images will be taken during the radiation treatment. They are not to measure the response to the radiation. They are only used to make sure that the position and treatment are correct.

A few children may become very anxious during treatment and may need medication to stay calm enough to remain still. If this happens, your team from radiation oncology and CHOP will work with you and your child to develop a plan to decrease their anxiety.

It can be difficult for a parent to see their child in distress. It may be helpful to remember that treatments last a short time, and to focus on the benefit of the treatment to your child. The radiation oncology social worker, as well as the rest of your health care team is here to provide support for you during this difficult time. Don't hesitate to ask.

See all articles: Radiation Treatment: A Parent's Guide

Download full Radiation Treatment: A Parent's Guide [PDF]


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