Radiation therapy for children

Peter Mac is Victoria’s only provider of specialist radiation therapy services for children.

Below is some information for parents of children undergoing radiation therapy at Peter Mac.

How is radiation therapy given to children?

For radiation therapy to be delivered accurately, it is important that the child keeps still during treatment. When children come to pre-treatment planning appointments, personalised moulds are made to help children keep still and comfortable. The treatment itself is painless (just like a regular x-ray), but the treatment equipment and environment can be overwhelming for children.

Children (particularly small children) who are unable to keep still for their treatment may be given an anaesthetic or sedation. An anaesthetic team from the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) come to Peter Mac to provide this service.

Children having radiation therapy may have to travel to Peter Mac every day, five days a week for up to seven weeks in some cases.

Peter Mac’s radiation therapy staff are experienced in helping families cope and do their best to make children and their families feel less anxious about their treatment.

What is the treatment experience like for children?

Peter Mac has dedicated children’s waiting areas with a range of toys and activities for different age groups. For older kids, there is also a “VIP” room – home to a PlayStation and TV. Special lighting and music is used in treatment rooms to make them more child-friendly. An extensive iTunes music library, with iPod connectivity is also available for children to listen to their favourite music.

Patients must be alone when they are having their treatment, and this can be difficult for younger children. During treatment, many young patients watch movies, available on an iPod or iPad mini, which provide distraction during the treatment. The iPods and iPads can also be linked via Skype or FaceTime, so children can watch and listen to their parents during treatment, helping reduce the feeling of separation.

A sticker page “count down” calendar is also used to encourage children to stick with their treatment, and count down to its completion. Lucky dips, certificates and various balloon art created by any of our resident balloon artists are also used to entertain children and reduce boredom. A video production team is also available to allow children to be the superstar of their own movie, which can help children to share their radiation therapy experience with friends and family.

Dr Dave and his Amazing Radiotherapy Machine

To further enhance the information offered to children having radiation therapy at Peter Mac, a comic-style book is also available. Acclaimed children’s author and illustrator team Danny Katz and Mitch Vane have produced Dr Dave and his Amazing Radiotherapy Machine. The book is aimed at primary-school-aged children and is designed to be customisable and easily updated.

Check out The Thrilling Adventures of Dr Dave in:

Adventure 1: Adventures of Dr Dave and his Amazing Radiotherapy Machine

Adventure 2: More Adventures of Dr Dave and his Amazing Radiotherapy Machine