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At UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, we believe parents and guardians can contribute to the success of radiation treatment and invite you to participate. Please read the following information to learn about this therapy and how you can help.
Radiation therapy is used to treat cancer. Powerful x-rays are used to destroy cancer cells or make them unable to grow and divide. During the treatment, a powerful beam of energy is directed to the part of your child’s body that is being treated. It is produced by a machine called a linear accelerator (LIN-ee-ur ak-SELL-er-a-tor). A linear accelerator allows a patient to be treated from any angle. Your child will lie on a table and the machine will rotate around the table to the exact point where the radiation will be applied.
The machine will be about 3 feet from your child’s body and will not touch your child while he or she is receiving treatment. It does not make any noise.
Because radiation can also damage healthy cells, your child will have his or her therapy throughout the week with breaks from treatment on the weekend. These weekend breaks will give the healthy cells a chance to recover.
The dose of your child’s radiation will be designed specifically for him or her.
Before your child begins radiation therapy, he or she will come to the hospital for “simulation.” Simulation is a practice step in preparing for your child’s radiation treatments. It makes sure the treatments are given exactly to the areas prescribed by your child’s oncologist. Sometimes it will be done in the same location in the hospital that your child will receive his or her treatments. Simulation is often done in the diagnostic department on the second floor of Children’s Hospital. Your child will be asked to lie on an x-ray table in the same position that he or she will be in for the actual radiation therapy.
After simulation, the radiation oncologist determines the type, amount, and depth of radiation, as well as the number of treatments your child will need.
If your child requires any type of sedation for his or her treatment, your doctor will provide you with additional information on eating and drinking before radiation treatments.
Children’s Hospital takes every precaution to make sure your child is safe. Usually children under the age of 7 will have a strap around them for safety while on the table.
Your child will have no pain during the radiation treatment.
Your child will be able to go home and resume normal activity right after the radiation treatment.
Your child’s doctor will discuss with you any side effects that may develop. Side effects depend on the location of the treated area, the number of treatments, and the dose. Your child may have redness in the area receiving radiation about 1 to 2 weeks into the treatment. Other common side effects are:
These side effects will get better as the effects of the radiation wear off 1 to 2 weeks after treatment ends. Diarrhea and vomiting should go away within a couple of days after treatment ends.
Your child’s doctor may prescribe medicine to help with an upset stomach or recommend special creams to treat skin reactions.
It is common for the skin to become red or darker during radiation therapy. The amount of skin redness or irritation depends on the part of the body being treated and the dose of radiation your child is receiving.
Following are recommendations for skin care during radiation therapy:
If your child is receiving chemotherapy during or after his or her radiation treatments, the skin may become red each time. This reaction is called “recall.” The body is remembering that it had radiation therapy.
Your child will see his or her doctor at least once a week during radiation treatments.
You should call the doctor if your child has any of the following symptoms:
You will be given a card with the phone number of your radiation oncologist; you may call with questions any time.
If your child has any special needs or health issues you feel the doctor needs to know about, please call the Department of Radiation Oncology at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh before the treatment and ask to speak with a nurse. It is important to notify us in advance about any special needs your child might have.
Department of Pediatric Radiation Oncology
UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh
One Children’s Hospital Drive
4401 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
Children's Hospital's main campus is located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. Our main hospital address is:
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
One Children’s Hospital Way
4401 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
In addition to the main hospital, Children's has many convenient locations in other neighborhoods throughout the greater Pittsburgh region.
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Interested in giving to Children's Hospital? Visit Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation's website to make a donation online.