Radiotherapy is the treatment with high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. Like surgery, radiation therapy is a local treatment. How to prepare your child for radiation therapy.
Before starting treatment, a specialist radiotherapy doctor will talk to you and your child about treatment.
The doctor will also mark the exact area where the radiation will be done, as the treatment is always given in the same place.
These marks must remain in place throughout the treatment. The skin may be sensitive during radiation, so it is important to avoid using soaps or lotions near the marks or part of the body that receives the radiation without the approval of the radiation team. Lotions must be removed before treatment.
Because of radiation exposure, you will not be allowed to stay in the room with your child during treatment. Your child will not be radioactive during or after radiation therapy, so no one needs to be afraid of being around him.
What will happen during radiation therapy?
Radiotherapy does not cause pain. It is very similar to a regular X-ray, except that your child needs to stay longer at the radiotherapy site and for this reason the doctor may give you a medication to help you relax or to put you to sleep. Parts of your child's body that are not being treated will be covered by special shields made of lead to protect body parts from radiation.
Decrease your child's fears
Some children may find the radiotherapy machines frightening. Your child and you will visit the area before the first treatment, so you both can see the machines and see how they work. Younger children may be afraid to be alone in the room and you can tell your child that you will be outside, waiting for him.
Side effects of radiotherapy:
High doses of radiation are intended to kill cancer cells, but they can also harm normal cells. Side effects depend on the treatment dose and the body part to be treated.
The most common effects are:
Redness on the skin: leave the skin uncovered, clean as indicated, use the ointments indicated by the doctor, keep your child out of the sun and use SPF 30 sunscreen.
Hair loss occurs in the irradiated area and should regrow within a few weeks to 3 months after the end of treatment, but some areas that received higher doses may not grow back. To preserve hair, use a mild shampoo, cut and avoid dryers, protect your scalp from the cold and the sun, use a wide-toothed comb.
Side effects according to the location of radiotherapy:
Head and neck:
Mouth sores: use mouthwashes without alcohol to wash your child's mouth. Give your child a soft toothbrush. Avoid hot, spicy or acidic foods. Prefer to serve soft foods. Contact your doctor if your child has mouth sores, painful areas or red or white spots on the mouth.
Dry mouth: drink plenty of water, rinse your mouth with a mouthwash recommended by the doctor or dentist.
Offer foods with sauces to make them moist and easy to swallow.
Stomach and abdomen:
Nausea and vomiting: ask your child's doctor about medications to control nausea and vomiting. Offer light foods 3-4 hours before treatment. Encourage your child to eat small amounts of food, often slowly. Avoid serving sweet, fatty, spicy foods and foods with strong odors.
Serve cold meals for the child, such as sandwiches instead of hot foods.
Encourage your child to rest after meals.
If your child is vomiting, do not give anything to eat or drink until it is under control. Once the vomiting is controlled, give small amounts of clear liquids (for example, water, broth, ice cream without milk and gelatin desserts).
When your child is accepting clear liquids well, try thicker liquids (for example, pudding, yogurt, milkshakes, soups). Gradually offer food up to the solids.
Contact your doctor if the diarrhea is liquid and more than three stools a day.
Avoid giving your child fatty foods.
Try foods high in protein and calories but low in fiber, such as yogurt, rice with broth or pasta.
Serve potassium-rich foods that do not cause diarrhea, such as bananas, peaches and apricot juice, and boiled potatoes or mashed potatoes.
Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids.
Long-term side effects of radiation therapy
Radiation therapy can also affect your child in the future.
For example, radiation to the brain can cause learning and coordination problems, especially in very young children.
Radiation therapy can also affect your child's growth or can cause a second cancer. Thus, the doctor may delay radiation therapy, or, if possible, choose another treatment, such as chemotherapy.
Your child's care team has no way of knowing exactly what long-term effects your child may have, but they can help you know what are the possible effects and ways of diagnosis and prevention.