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Radiotherapy can be a frightening experience for both children and their parents, but once everyone understands what is involved this fear can be reduced. The radiotherapy staff are used to treating children and can offer help and support.
Young children, especially those aged three or younger, may have their treatment under a mild general anaesthetic. You’ll probably have a morning appointment, as your child can’t eat or drink for at least four hours before their treatment. The anaesthetic is usually given in the radiotherapy department by an anaesthetist. You can stay with your child until they are asleep.
Although you won’t be able to stay in the radiotherapy room during your child’s treatment, you can watch through the window or on the TV screen. The nurses will look after your child until they wake up, usually after 20-60 minutes. You will then both be able to go home unless your child is an inpatient, in which case a nurse will take them back to the ward.
Older children may take a while to get used to the size and sound of the machines, but this should get easier once they get to know the staff and the surroundings. If you’re finding it difficult to cope with your child’s illness, you may find it helpful to contact a children’s cancer group. Sharing your experiences with other parents can help you cope with your own problems and fears. Contact our cancer support specialists |for details of these groups.
Our section on children's cancers| gives more information and also includes a link to an animation which might help you to explain radiotherapy.
You might find it useful to watch a video about Debbie's experience| of talking to her children when she was diagnosed with cancer.
Content last reviewed: 1 July 2011
Next planned review: 2013
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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