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At UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, we believe parents and guardians can contribute to the
success of radiation therapy treatments and invite you to participate. Please read the following information to learn about this therapy and how you can help.
Radiation therapy is a specific type of treatment used to treat cancer. Powerful x-rays are used to destroy cancer cells or make them unable to grow and divide. During treatment, a precise beam of energy is directed at 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). Your child will lie on a table and the machine will rotate around them to the exact positions where the radiation will be delivered. The machine will never touch your child while they are receiving their treatments.
While radiation does destroy or inhibit cancer cells from growing, it can also harm normal cells. Normal cells are more likely to recover from Its effects and the healthcare team takes extensive measures to carefully monitor your child's radiation doses to protect healthy tissue around the treatment area. For this reason, your child will have his or her therapy throughout the week with breaks from treatment on the weekends. These weekend breaks will give the healthy cells a chance to recover.
Every child is unique, so too are their treatments. The radiation oncologist will work with other healthcare professionals to decide on the type and dose of radiation therapy that is best for your child.
Before the first radiation therapy treatment, a planning session called simulation is done in the radiology department here at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Your child will lie on a CT table while a radiation therapist adjusts them into the exact position needed for their radiation treatments. Once in this position, a CT image can be taken.
Depending on the area of the body that will be treated, a "mask" (an immobilization device that is custom made for each patient to reduce the movement of the head and shoulders) or a "vac bag" (an immobilization device that is custom made for each patient to reduce the movement of the thorax, abdomen, or pelvis) may be fabricated prior to the simulation. These immobilization devices are subject to the radiation oncologist's decision.
If your child requires any type of sedation for their daily treatment, the doctor will provide you with additional information on eating and drinking prior to radiation treatments.
UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh takes every precaution to make sure your child is safe. Most children will have a safety strap secured around them while on the treatment table.
The radiation itself will cause no pain to your child. However, the position your child will be in during treatment may be uncomfortable.
Your child will be able to go home and resume normal activity right after dally radiation treatment.
Once your child is finished with all of their radiation treatments, it is still important for the radiation oncologist to monitor your child's health and progress in follow-up appointments.
Your child's radiation oncologist 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. Some patients have no side effects at all. For those who do, most will go away In time, generally are not serious, and can be controlled with proper treatment.
Common side effects are:
These side effects will get better as the effects of the radiation wear off 1- 2 weeks after treatment ends. Your child's radiation oncologist may prescribe medicine to help with an upset stomach or recommend certain creams to treat skin changes.
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 therapy 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 radiation oncologist 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 anytime.
Do not hesitate to discuss your questions or concerns. The more you know about how radiation therapy will affect and help your child, the better prepared you will be.
If your child has any special needs or health issues you feel the radiation oncologist needs to know about, please call the Department of Radiation Oncology at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh before the treatment. It is important to notify us in advance about any special needs your child might have.
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.
With myCHP, you can request appointments, review test results, and more.
For questions about a hospital bill call:
To pay your bill online, please visit UPMC's online bill payment system.
Interested in giving to Children's Hospital? Visit Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation's website to make a donation online.