Childhood cancer treatments

There are 3 types of treatment commonly used to manage cancer in children: chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy.

Chemotherapy treatment uses anti-cancer medicines (drugs) to treat cancer by stopping cells from growing, or by destroying cells.

Many children with cancer will have surgery during their treatment. Most surgeries happen in the operating room while your child is asleep under general anaesthesia.

Radiation therapy treats cancer using high-energy x-ray beams. The beams target cancer cells from outside the body and destroy fast-growing cells, such as cancer cells.

During a blood and marrow transplant (BMT), doctors replace your child's bone marrow system with healthy blood stem cells.

A central venous catheter is a device that allows health professionals to give medicines, fluids and blood products into a large central vein leading directly into your child's heart.

An external catheter is a thin, flexible, partially implanted silicone tube which extends outside the body. Inside the body, the catheter lies under the skin of the chest. It goes into a central vein near a small incision by the neck.

A port-a-cath/powerport, known as a port, is a small chamber, about the size of a 20 cent coin. It has a silicone centre that can be pricked with a special needle many times. It has a thin flexible silicone tube attached.

A peripherally inserted central catheter (known as a PICC or PIC line) is a temporary, short-term central venous catheter sometimes used when your child is in hospital. 

Sometimes, if your child has lost a lot of weight or has not been eating very well for a period of time, they may need tube feeding. 

If your child with cancer is having anaesthesia or sedation they will have to stop eating food at least 6 hours before the procedure. Your child will be able to have breast milk up to 4 hours before the procedure. Your child will be able to have clear drinks up to 2 hours before the procedure.

Cleaning your hands gets rid of germs you pick up from other people. Keeping your hands clean is one of the best ways to keep from getting sick and spreading illnesses.

A clinical trial is a research study. Clinical trials have played a huge role in the dramatic improvements in childhood cancer cure rates in the last 30 to 40 years.

If your child has cancer, please talk to your child's healthcare team before using any complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) for your child. Some CAM treatments, even vitamins, can interfere with standard medical treatment or can be unsafe for your child with cancer.