Common Terms used in Treatment

Surgery

surgery will be done by a team of experts.  Depending on where surgery is needed it may be carried out in OLCH Crumlin, Temple St Children’s Hospital, Dublin (brain surgery) or Cappagh Hospital, Dublin (bone surgery).

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. There are many different types of chemotherapy drugs used to treat different types of childhood cancer.

Some are given at home as tablets or capsules but most are given by drip (infusion) into a vein.  Some targeted chemotherapies are injected into the spinal fluid where they can be most effective. Once in the body the drugs travel to treat the cancer cell. Sometimes just one chemotherapy drug is used, but often a combination of two, three or more drugs is given.  Your child’s doctor will give you a copy of the protocol being used so that you can see the schedule of treatment.  The medical team will also talk you through the side effects of chemotherapy which can include:

  • Infection
  • Bruising, Nausea &/or sickness
  • Hair Loss
  • Sore mouth
  • Numbness/Pins and Needles
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite/taste
  • Weakness in legs

Side effects vary from person to person and drug to drug.  As part of the process of destroying fast growing cancer cells, the drugs can also affect healthy cells in your child’s body.  If your child is experiencing any side effects, discuss them with your care team. In the case of hair loss, particularly for girls and teenagers, you will be given assistance to contact a wig specialist if your child chooses this.

Radiation therapy

Radiotherapy is a method of treatment that uses carefully calculated and measured doses of radiation to treat the cancerous area. The treatment normally takes just a few minutes and is painless.  If radiation is part of your child’s treatment it will most likely be carried out in St Luke’s Hospital, Dublin where the radiation oncologist will liaise with the medical team in Crumlin.

Radiation can have long lasting effects on young children.  Please be aware to ask your oncologist about the long term side effects of external photon beam radiation provided in Ireland (these vary depending on where in the body radiation is given and the age of your child) and any alternatives that may be available to your child in other countries.  These may include IMAT, proton radiation, brachytherapy and gamma knife radiation.

  • Your child may be under anaesthetic for radiation treatment, depending on their age.
  • General side effects of radiation include tiredness and nausea.

Bone Marrow Transplant

A bone marrow transplant (BMT) replaces diseased or damaged cells with non-cancerous stem cells that can grow healthy new cells. BMT can be used to replace normal stem cells in the bone marrow when they have been destroyed by high doses of chemotherapy. A BMT is also performed when the chances for cure with chemotherapy alone are low.

Due to the complete destruction of existing bone marrow and immune system to prepare for BMT, it is important to keep children in isolation during treatment.  They are at serious risk from any infection as they will have no immune system to protect them.  There are new isolation rooms in the new St John’s ward in Crumlin which make this period of isolation more bearable for children and parents.  This procedure will be planned in advance with your medical team and they will provide detailed information.

For more information on Bone Marrow Transplant visit this link: Curesearch Bone Marrow Transplant details

Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplant (PBSCT)

This is more commonly used than Bone Marrow Transplant.  It is less invasive and initial studies show that it may have better outcomes.  In PBSCT blood forming stem cells destroyed by cancer treatment are replaced by cells harvested from the patient or from a donor with matching bone marrow.  The cells are harvested from blood using a large machine.  This process is known as ‘apherisis’.  It is painless.  The transplant procedure is painless also and takes 2-6 hours.

Immunotherapy

This is a relatively new type of cancer treatment. It uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells.  Currently it is used in Crumlin as part of the protocol for neuroblastoma treatment.  It is being used in clinical trials abroad to treat other cancer types.

For detailed information on Immunotherapy visit this link: Curesearch: Immunotherapy details

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