What happens during chemotherapy?
Meet Jake, who can tell you all about chemotherapy for children.
Chemotherapy is one way your child may be treated for a brain tumour. Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy tumour cells by interrupting or stopping their growth. Chemotherapy can be used on its own, with radiotherapy, or it may be used before or after surgery.
Our bodies are made up of cells that divide to reproduce and repair themselves. Cytotoxic drugs used in chemotherapy disturb the dividing process of both tumour cells and healthy cells. Healthy cells are better able to repair themselves, whilst tumour cells are more likely to die.
Depending on your child's type of brain tumour, their age, and general health, chemotherapy may be given:
Your child may be given chemotherapy in one of a number of ways:
This is the usual method and may be given via a central line, a PICC line or a portacath. The type of 'line' your child has will depend on factors, such as your child's age and tumour type. The line is put in under general anaesthetic and stays in place until your child's chemotherapy treatment has finished. You will be taught by your child's health team how to care for the line.
There is more information about these lines, including how to look after them, in the full fact sheet. This can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.
This is a less common method. If your child is given chemotherapy by this method, wear disposable gloves when handling the medication, particularly if you are pregnant. Do NOT crush the tablets.
Chemotherapy drugs can have an unpleasant after-taste - giving you child flavoured chewing gum or a sweet afterwards can help to disguise the taste.
Your child's health team will plan and tailor your child's treatment based on the type of tumour your child has, your child's age, the amount of tumour removed (where relevant), and your child's general health.
It could vary from daily chemotherapy for a while as a day-case in hospital, to several days on a ward every few weeks.
These cycles of treatment can be given over 3 months to 12 months, or even longer.
Chemotherapy is often given as an outpatient treatment, which means that your child won't usually have to stay in hospital overnight.
Side-effects vary from child to child and according to the drugs they have been given. As chemotherapy temporarily acts on healthy cells as well as tumour cells, it may cause some unpleasant, short-term side-effects, commonly including:
During and after treatment, your child will be monitored using scans to check how well the treatment is working, e.g. for any changes to their tumour.
Page last reviewed: 02/2018
Next review due: 02/2021
Find out more about Chemotherapy for children in the full fact sheet -
including information about how to care for your child's central line.
Find out more about Chemotherapy for children in the full fact sheet - Clear print version, designed to RNIB guidelines - including information about how to care for your child's central line.
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