Childhood Cancer Treatments

There are 3 types of treatment commonly used to manage cancer in tamariki (children). They are 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 tamariki (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.

Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that promotes or supports your immune system's (infection-fighting system's) response to a disease such as cancer.

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

An external catheter is a thin, flexible, partially implanted silicone tube that 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 or 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 and drinking fluids before the procedure. Your local healthcare team will give you instructions about preparing your child for surgery. 

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.