Pain management in childhood cancer

Children have different ways of letting us know they are in pain. The same injury can cause a different amount of pain in different children and the same procedure can cause a different amount of pain each time it is done to the same child.

Research shows that when families are encouraged to maintain their caring role as much as possible, children's anxieties are lessened and the pain they experience is reduced. Families can expect to be as involved in their child's care as they wish to be.

Medicines which relieve pain are called analgesics. If your child is able to take medicine or tablets, this is the way the pain relief will be given. If your child has very strong pain, often the medicine is given intravenously because this method gives a rapid response.

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. It comes out of the body, near the nipple line on the chest at what is called the exit site.

A central venous catheter is a device which provides entry from outside the body to a large central vein leading directly into the heart. It is used to administer chemotherapy and other medications, nutritional fluids, intravenous fluids and blood products. It can also be used to withdraw samples of blood for testing.

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. It is a thin flexible, silicone tube inserted into a peripheral (minor) vein in the arm or lower leg, which leads to a central vein leading to the heart.

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