Cranial radiation

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To receive cranial radiation, children are given appointments for ten weekdays, the same time each day. They usually have the weekend off. At some institutions, children go twice a day for ten days. When the parent and child arrive, they must check in at the front desk. The technologist comes out to take the child into the treatment room. Often, the parent accompanies her young child into the room. If the child requires anesthesia, it is usually given in the treatment room.

The technologist will secure conscious children or teens in place with an immobilization device. Measurements are taken to verify that the child's body is perfectly positioned. Frequently, the technologist will shine a light on the area to be irradiated to ensure that the machine is properly aligned. The technologist and parents leave the room, closing the door behind them.

At some institutions, parents are allowed to stay and watch the TV monitor and talk to their child via the speaker system. If this is the case, you should be careful not to distract the technologist as he administers the radiation. At other institutions, parents are asked to wait in the waiting room. Its important that you understand the departments policies; ask the therapist if anything is unclear.

I desperately wanted my 3-year-old to be able to receive the radiation without anesthesia. I asked the center staff what I could do to make her comfortable. They said, "Anything, as long as you leave the room during the treatment." So I explained to my daughter that we had to find ways for her to hold very still for a short time. I said, "It's such a short time, that if I played your Snow White tape, the treatment would be over before Snow White met the dwarves." Katy agreed that was a short time, and asked that I bring the tape for her to listen to. She also wanted a sticker (a different one every day) stuck on the machine for her to look at. I brought her pink blanket to wrap her in because the table was hard and the room cold. Each day, she chose a different comfort animal or doll to hold during treatment. So we'd arrive every day with tapes, blanket, stickers, and animals. She felt safe, and all treatments went extremely well.

There was something about the radiation or the anesthesia that frightened Shawn terribly He would scream in the car all the way to the hospital. It was a scream as if he was in pain. He had nightmares while he was undergoing radiation and every night after it was over. We decided a month after radiation ended to bring a box of candy to the staff who had been so nice. Shawn asked, "Do I have to go in that room?" When I explained that it was over and he didn't need to go in the room anymore, he asked if he could go in to look at it once more. He stood for a long time and just looked and looked at the equipment. Somehow he made his peace with it, because he never had any more nightmares.

If your child is receiving spinal radiation, the back of the heart may be affected. A baseline EKG and echocardiogram should be performed prior to treatment and on a regular basis thereafter. Spinal radiation may also damage the thyroid gland, which is located in the neck. The oncologist should periodically evaluate the functioning of this gland if spinal radiation has been given.

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