Childhood Cancer is very different to Adult Cancer and is therefore not treated the same as Adult Cancer. Paediatric Cancer Centres generally offer extra support services for children and their families, such as child life specialists, nutritionists, physical and occupational therapists, social workers, counsellors. Special activities and programs to help your child and family cope may also be available. There are, however, times when a teenager with cancer may need to be treated at an Adult Cancer Centre.
All Children with Cancer should be treated at a specialised cancer centre. Doctors at these centres have extensive experience in treating children with cancer and have access to the latest research. In many cases, a team of doctors works with a child and the family to provide care; this is called a multidisciplinary team.
This section will eventually contain all available information about all the main cancer treatments for Childhood Cancer, including surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and bone marrow and stem cell transplants.
We will also provide information about complementary and alternative therapies.
The treatment of childhood cancer depends on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer, possible side effects, the family’s preferences, and the child’s overall health. Your child’s care plan may also include treatment for symptoms and side effects, an important part of cancer care.
Take time to learn about all of your child’s treatment options and be sure to ask questions about things that are unclear.
Also, talk about the goals of each treatment with your doctor and what to expect while receiving the treatment.
Conventional Medical Treatments
Conventional medicine is the sort of medicine and treatment your doctor would usually use to treat your cancer. You may also hear this called orthodox medical treatment.
The following are general descriptions of treatments that may be used as part of a child’s treatment plan.
Surgery is the removal of either a cancerous or non-cancerous tumour and the surrounding tissue during an operation performed by a surgical oncologist (a doctor that specialises in treating tumours using surgery). The goal of surgery is to remove the entire tumour and the margin (tissue around the tumour), leaving a negative margin (no cancer in the healthy tissue).
For most childhood tumours, there is microscopic tumour left after surgery; doctors will then usually recommend chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other treatments. Side effects of surgery depend on the location and type of the tumour and whether it has metastasised.
Chemotherapy is the use of specific drugs, administered by a paediatric oncologist, to destroy cancer cells by preventing the cancer cells from growing and dividing to make more new cells.
Cancer cells generally grow and divide much faster than healthy cells; chemotherapy destroys them more quickly than it destroys most healthy cells.
Chemotherapy drugs are very powerful and they cause damage to many growing cells, including some healthy cells. This damage causes the side effects of chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays or other particles such as photons to destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy is administered by a radiation oncologist, who is a doctor who specialises in giving radiation therapy to treat cancer.
Radiation describes the way energy moves from one place to another; this can either be in the form of particles such as protons or in the form of waves like x-rays or visible light.
Possible side-effects from radiation therapy may include mild nausea, skin reactions, fatigue, and loose bowel movements, depending on which part of the body is receiving radiation. Most side-effects disappear again soon after treatment is finished.
While significant progress has been made in treating cancer since 1971 ,it still remains the second leading cause of death in many countries across the globe. The major modes of treatment for cancer remain, as they were in 1971 – surgery, radiation and non-targeted chemotherapy. Yet, in the past fifteen years significant technology breakthroughs have enabled a rapid increase in understanding cancer at the molecular level. This is leading to many new approaches to treatment.
Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is designed to boost the body’s natural defences to fight the cancer. It uses materials made either by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function.
Immunotherapy is the treatment of disease that uses your body’s own immune system to help fight cancer by inducing, enhancing or suppressing an immune response. Cancer immunotherapy attempts to stimulate the immune system to reject or destroy tumours. The efficacy of immunotherapy is enhanced by around 30% when combined with conventional cancer treatments.
There are a myriad of different immunotherapies that work in various ways to either boost the body’s immune system or train the immune system to attack cancer cells, including Cellular Therapies, Interferons, Interleukins, and more…
A stem cell or bone marrow transplant replenishes the body with healthy cells to help restore the bone marrow’s ability to produce healthy blood cells
Stem cell transplants – from bone marrow or other sources – can be an effective treatment for people with certain types of cancer such as leukaemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma and neuroblastoma.
A stem cell transplant is a medical procedure in which bone marrow that contains cancer is replaced by highly specialised cells, called hematopoietic stem cells, that develop into healthy bone marrow.
Hematopoietic stem cells are blood-forming cells found both in the bloodstream and in the bone marrow.
Researchers are studying gene therapy for a number of diseases, such as severe combined immuno-deficiencies, hemophilia, Parkinson’s disease, cancer and HIV, through a number of different approaches.
A gene can be delivered to a cell using a carrier known as a “vector.” The most common types of vectors used in gene therapy are viruses. The viruses used in gene therapy are altered to make them safe, although some risks still exist with gene therapy.
In most gene therapy studies, a “normal” gene is inserted into the genome to replace an “abnormal,” disease-causing gene. In cancer, some cells become diseased because certain genes have been permanently turned off. Using gene therapy, mutated genes that cause disease could be turned off so that they no longer promote disease, or healthy genes that help prevent disease could be turned on so that they can inhibit the disease.
Complementary & Alternative Therapies
A complementary therapy means you can use it alongside your conventional medical treatment. It may help you to feel better and cope better with your cancer and treatment. It is important to discuss with your doctor any complementary therapy that you are thinking of using.
An alternative therapy is generally used instead of conventional medical treatment. All conventional cancer treatments have to go through rigorous testing by law in order to prove that they work. Most alternative therapies have not been through such testing and there is no scientific evidence that they work. Some types of alternative therapy may not be completely safe and could cause harmful side effects.
Aromatherapy is the practice of using the natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant to enhance psychological and physical well-being. The inhaled aroma from these “essential” oils is widely believed to stimulate brain function.
There are more than 400 essential oils; some are used to make cosmetics or perfumes, and others are used in healing. Aromatherapy has been used in conjunction with nutritional therapy for centuries, offering both a back-up to recovery and a treatment in itself!
Holistic aromatherapy uses oils have different healing effects on the body. Many of these properties overlap so several oils can be used to treat one condition. Only a few of these oils are commonly used in people with cancer.
Acupuncture falls under the banner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is a system of primary health care that includes Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Remedial Massage (Anmo Tuina), Exercise and Breathing Therapy (such as Qigong), and Diet and Lifestyle Advice.
In the West we tend to think of “medicine” as a way of dealing with illness and disease. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) on the other hand focuses on achieving health and well-being through the cultivation of harmony within our lives.
Acupuncture is a treatment that involves putting fine needles into the body at particular points. The needles are left in place for a short time and then removed. Acupuncture can help with some physical problems such as pain and feeling sick. It can also help to reduce symptoms such as anxiety.
Antioxidants, also known as “free radical scavengers,” are chemicals that interact with and neutralise free radicals, thus preventing them from causing damage.
The human body makes some of the antioxidants, called endogenous antioxidants that it uses to neutralise free radicals, but it relies on external sources, primarily the diet, to obtain the rest of the antioxidants it needs.
External or exogenous antioxidants are commonly called dietary antioxidants and can be found in fruits, vegetables, and grains as well as in certain dietary supplements such as beta-carotene, lycopene, and vitamins A, C, and E.
Antioxidant supplementation during conventional chemotherapy and radiation therapy is a controversial subject, which is why we are including it in our information pages, so that you have a good knowledge-base from which to make an informed decision on its use or not. Some studies suggest taking antioxidants supplements during treatment may be beneficial; however, there are just as many studies that tell us this may be harmful.
Art Therapy, also known as Creative Arts Therapy or Expressive Arts Therapy is a healing modality based on the premise that the integration of art into the healing process can be emotionally restorative and can serve as an outlet for the expression of all the emotions a diagnosis like cancer brings.
Art Therapy can be a way for people to express their unspoken or unconscious concerns about their illness and their lives, deal with emotional conflicts, increase self-awareness, cope with cancer and reduce stress.
Young children with cancer have so much to face, dealing with extra-ordinary challenges every day such as various medical procedures and the side-effects of those treatments. They also lose a big part of their childhood as they have to give up many things most kids take for granted.
Ayurveda is the traditional healing modality of the Vedic culture from India. It is said to be 2000 to 5000 years old, meaning it has stood the test of time.
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that literally translates as “the wisdom of life” or “the knowledge of longevity”. It is one of the world’s oldest holistic (whole-body) healing systems and focuses on harmony and balance between the mind, spirit, environment and cosmos.
Ayurveda is the oldest holistic (whole-body) healing modality, based as it is on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. The wise seers and sages of the time intuitively understood the physiology and workings of the mind-body-spirit long before the advents of modern medicine.
Biofeedback is a type of mind-body therapy. It uses a simple machine to measure body functions that we aren’t normally aware of, such as heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, sweating and tightness in our muscles. You then learn how to use your mind to control these body functions without using the biofeedback machine.
Neurofeedback was discovered by NASA in the 1960s, and is essentially a complementary mind-body therapy that works on the premise that by harnessing the power of your mind and becoming aware of what’s going on inside your body, you can gain more control over your health.
This non-invasive healing modality uses a simple machine to measure body functions of which one is normally not even aware, such as heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, sweating and tightness in the muscles.
Though based in technology, this brain-training system is totally non-invasive and drug-free, and helps the central nervous system (CNS) make the best use of your brain’s natural resources to alleviate a variety of physical and emotional problems.
Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a plant from Central Asia that is grown in many parts of the world today. The Cannabis plant produces a resin containing compounds called cannabinoids. Some cannabinoids are psychoactive (acting on the brain and changing mood or consciousness).
Cannabinoids are active chemicals in Cannabis that act on certain receptors on cells in our body, especially cells in the central nervous system, the brain and spinal cord, which work together to control all the functions of the body; they are also known as phytocannabinoids.
The main active cannabinoid in Cannabis is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Another active cannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD).
The discussions, beliefs and oft arguments regarding medicinal use of marijuana have been ongoing for years, with many individuals being of the opinion that marijuana is just a drug and has no medicinal use whatsoever, including many governments and scientific/pharmaceutical organisations.
Cartilage is a type of tough, flexible connective tissue that forms parts of the skeleton in many animals. Cartilage contains cells called chondrocytes, which are surrounded by collagen (a fibrous protein) and proteoglycans, which are made of protein and carbohydrate.
Cartilage from cows (bovine cartilage) and sharks has been studied as a treatment for people with cancer and other medical conditions for more than 30 years.
Interest in using shark cartilage grew because it was believed that shark cartilage may be more active than bovine cartilage in preventing new blood vessels from being formed. Since a shark’s skeleton is made mostly of cartilage, shark cartilage is more plentiful than bovine cartilage.
Chiropractic Therapy is based on the idea that a healthy spine and nervous system play an important role in your overall health and well-being.
Chiropractors see illness as the result of nerves being compressed by muscle spasms or joints that are out of place. They treat the illness by moving, or manipulating, the bones of the spine and other joints and muscles to release the compressed nerves. It’s most commonly used to treat back pain, neck pain, headaches and pain from muscle, joint and bone problems.
Chiropractors don’t use medicines or surgery; they are trained to diagnose physical problems and are likely to call themselves primary healthcare practitioners rather than complementary therapists.
Chiropractors treat illness by moving, or manipulating, the bones of the spine and other joints and muscles to release the compressed nerves, and most commonly treat back pain, neck pain, headaches and pain from muscle, joint and bone problems.
Energy Therapies are also called biofield therapies. Energy therapy is the gentle art of clearing cellular memory through the human energy field promoting health, balance and relaxation, and is based on the concept of connection between the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual realms of our lives found in many holistic healing methods.
Energy therapy uses focused healing energy to clear blocks that accumulate in the body hindering the natural flow of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy. When energy is flowing freely through your body, you have good emotional, physical and spiritual health. When you are ill, the energy flow is blocked.
Energy Healing Practitioners believe that Energy Healing is an important component in the treatment of cancer; it can address root cause, therefore can help the individual focus on the underlying factors and reverse them. Energy Healing opens the channels so that treatments such as chemotherapy can work more efficiently. Conversely, it can also remove chemo from the body after it has done its work, thus reducing the toxic load on the body.
Essiac and Flor Essence are herbal tea mixtures sold worldwide as herbal dietary supplements or health tonics, and which are often used ascomplementary treatments for AIDS, Cancer, Diabetes, and Gastrointestinal Diseases.
Essiac is comprised of 4 herbs: Burdock Root; Indian Rhubarb Root; Sheep Sorrel; and Slippery Elm (the inner bark).
Flor Essence reportedly contains the same 4 herbs found in Essiac plus 4 additional herbs: Watercress; Blessed thistle; Red clover; Kelp.
Essiac was first promoted as a cancer treatment in the 1920s. Flor Essence was created a number of years later
As with most natural remedies, batches of these mixtures may differ and contain the above herbs in different quantities or may contain additional ingredients, so the effect may not always be the exact same in different batches.
Exercise may help you manage signs and symptoms during and after cancer treatment. Gentle exercise may help relieve fatigue and stress and help you sleep better. Many studies now show that an exercise program may help people with cancer live longer and improve their overall quality of life.
If you haven’t already been exercising regularly, check with your doctor before you begin an exercise program. Start slowly, adding more exercise as you go. Aim to work your way up to at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
Gerson Therapy is an Alternative Therapy diet, which means it is used instead of conventional treatment for cancer.
Gerson Therapy involves a very specific diet with nutritional supplements, and is aimed at ridding the body of toxins and strengthening the body’s immune system. Gerson Therapy is based on the role of minerals, enzymes, and other dietary factors, and has been used by some individuals to treat cancer and other conditions.
With its whole-body approach to healing, the Gerson Therapy naturally reactivates your body’s ability to heal itself – with no damaging side effects. This powerful, natural treatment boosts the body’s own immune system and has been used to treat cancer, arthritis, heart disease, allergies, and many other degenerative diseases.
Guided Imagery is also often referred to as Imagery or Visualisation, and is the use of images to assist one to imagine and attain a specific goal.
Guided Imagery is based on the premise that the mind and body are connected, and that one can use one’s imagination to influence one’s physical health and sense of well-being.
Guided Imagery involves far more than just the visual sense though, which is a good thing as only around 55% of people are strongly wired visually. Guided imagery techniques therefore involve all of the senses.
Advocates have long contended that the imagination is a potent healer that has long been overlooked by practitioners of Western medicine, and believe that Imagery can relieve pain, speed healing and help the body subdue hundreds of ailments, including depression, impotence, allergies and asthma.
From the famous healing temples of ancient Greece to present-day pilgrims traveling to Mecca and Lourdes, from the Hermetic rites to help a person visualise himself in perfect health to modern day Christian Science; visualisation has been employed as a powerful tool for inner change.
Herbal medicine – also called botanical medicine or phytomedicine – refers to using a plant’s seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark, or flowers for medicinal purposes. Herbalism has a long tradition of use outside conventional medicine.
Traditional Chinese herbal remedies are part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and have been used in China for thousands of years. Traditional Chinese herbal remedies are a large part of TCM. They can be given as pills, teas, powders, liquid extracts or syrups.
Hundreds of different types of herbs are used in TCM, and TCM practitioners often use combinations of herbs rather than a single herb.
Many modern drugs are made from plants. But herbalists don’t extract plant substances in the way the drug industry does. Herbalists believe that the remedy works due to the delicate chemical balance of the whole plant, or mixtures of plants, not one particular active ingredient.
Vitamin C is a nutrient found in food and dietary supplements. It is an antioxidant and also plays a key role in making collagen.
High-dose vitamin C has been studied as a treatment for patients with cancer since the 1970s.
A Scottish surgeon named Ewan Cameron worked with Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling to study the possible benefits of Vitamin C Therapy in clinical trials of cancer patients in the late 1970s and early 1980’s.
Surveys of healthcare practitioners at United States CAM conferences in recent years have shown that high-dose IV vitamin C is frequently given to patients as a treatment for infections, fatigue, and various cancers, including breast cancer.
Hypnosis is an altered state of awareness in which you are relaxed but have focused attention.
Hypnotherapy is a form of psychotherapy used to create subconscious change in a patient in the form of new responses, thoughts, attitudes, behaviours or feelings. It is undertaken with a subject under hypnosis.
Clinical hypnosis by qualified hypnotherapists is a medically recognised therapy used to treat emotional or physical problems. It is very different from hypnosis shows that are done for entertainment.
Some reports show that hypnosis can help people to reduce their blood pressure, stress, anxiety, and pain. Hypnosis can create relaxing brain wave patterns. Some clinical trials have looked at how well hypnotherapy works for people with cancer.
Jin Shin Jyutsu is the Art of releasing tensions which are the causes for various symptoms in the body. Our bodies contain several energy pathways that feed life into all of our cells.
When one or more of these paths become blocked, this damming effect may lead to discomfort or even pain. This blockage or stagnation will not only disrupt the local area but will continue and eventually disharmonise the complete path or paths of the energy flow.
Through Jin Shin Jyutsu, our awareness is awakened to the simple fact that we are endowed with the ability to harmonise and balance ourselves (in rhythm with the universe) physically, mentally and spiritually.
Labyrinth walking involves a meditative walk along a set circular pathway that goes to the center and comes back out. Labyrinths can also be “walked” online or on a grooved board following the curved path with a finger.
Possibility, peace, compassion, fulfillment: those are words people use to describe their feelings after they’ve walked a labyrinth. The ancient meditative practice is gaining popularity in modern times and is being applied in health care settings to promote well-being.
Unlike mazes, which are designed to confuse users, labyrinths consist of a single path that winds its way from the outside of the circle to the centre and back out again. Not only are they being used to complement traditional cancer treatment, but they are also a supportive measure for family members and caregivers.
Laetrile is a partly man made (synthetic) form of the natural substance Amygdalin and has been used as a treatment for people with cancer worldwide. The term “laetrile” comes from 2 words (laevorotatory and mandelonitrile) and is used to describe a purified form of the chemical amygdalin. Amygdalin is a plant compound that contains sugar and produces cyanide. Cyanide is believed to be the active cancer-killing ingredient in laetrile.
Amygdalin is a plant substance found naturally in raw nuts and the pips of many fruits, particularly apricot pips, or kernels. It is also present in plants such as lima beans, clover and sorghum.
Massage Therapy is a system of treatment that works by stroking, kneading, tapping or pressing the soft tissues of the body. It aims to relax you mentally and physically. It has been used for centuries. Massage may concentrate on the muscles, the soft tissues, or on the acupuncture points.
Massage therapists work in a variety of settings, including private offices, hospitals, nursing homes, studios, and sport and fitness facilities. Some also travel to patients’ homes or workplaces. They usually try to provide a calm, soothing environment.
Considering the long history of massage, its incorporation into Western medicine is only in its infancy. The potential for growth and research of the healing properties of therapeutic massage and body work has gained great momentum over the last fifty years, and the public demand for massage therapy is at an all-time high.
Meditation is a type of mind-body therapy. Mind-body therapies are based on the connection between the mind and the body and how the health of one affects the health of the other.Meditation is the practice of concentrating or focusing your attention to increase mental awareness and calm your mind and body.
Meditation is both an ancient spiritual practice and a contemporary mind-body technique for relaxing the body and calming the mind. Most meditative techniques have come to the West from Asian religious practices, particularly India, China, and Japan, but similar techniques can be found in many cultures around the world. Until recently, the primary purpose of meditation has been religious, although its health benefits have long been recognised in cultures where these methods originated.
One of the most important parts of meditation is conscious breathing, or being aware of the way that you breathe. Taking regular, slow, deep and quiet breaths helps to calm your body and mind. It’s believed that this type of breathing will help lower blood pressure and help reduce stress and anxiety.
Music Therapy is the use of music as a way to help people express and cope with difficult feelings. It can encourage contact and communication with other people and help ease some physical symptoms.
During music therapy, you listen to music or use musical instruments under the guidance of a music therapist. Other types of music therapy include singing and writing songs. Music therapy may be used along with other therapies, such as art therapy.
You don’t need to have any musical ability or experience to benefit from music therapy. It is thought that our brain and body respond naturally to sound, including the rhythm and beat of music.
Naturopathic Medicine is a system of healing that focuses on supporting and stimulating the body’s ability to heal itself.
Naturopathic medicine takes a holistic approach, which means that it focuses on the whole person rather than on a person’s illness. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) practise this form of medicine, which combines modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural therapies.
Naturopathic Medicine dates back more than 100 years, although it has its roots in ancient medicine. Founded by a German-American MD, Dr. Benjamin Lust, Naturopathic Medicine integrates a wide variety of natural therapies that have been clinically proven to strengthen the immune system, improve overall health, and help prevent illness.
Various organisations with Integrative Oncology Services offer Naturopathic Medicine where the focus is on reducing the risk of harmful effects from cancer treatments; to support normal metabolism and digestion during cancer treatment; to manage any side effects, such as nausea or fatigue; and to boost immune function.
Play Therapy is a term used for a group of techniques that a trained therapist uses to “hear” what a child is saying by the way they play. By understanding the symbols children use, the therapist can ‘listen’ to what the child is really saying and then help them to work through difficult emotions and cope with their problems.
Giving a child the opportunity to communicate enables them to gain more control over their feelings and anxieties. This doesn’t just mean the child who is ill but is just as true for their brothers and sisters. Play Therapy is just as important for them. They too, may need to express their feelings and fears and can do so in the same safe, confidential environment.
Relaxation techniques are basically various methods used to focus the attention on calming the mind and relaxing the muscles and include activities such as visualisation exercises, guided imagery, biofeedback, self-hypnosis, progressive muscle relaxation or deep breathing exercises.
Meditation and practices that include meditation with movement, such as yoga and tai chi, can also promote relaxation.
The goal is similar in all; to produce the body’s natural relaxation response, characterised by slower breathing, lower blood pressure, and a feeling of increased well-being.
Relaxation techniques work very well with children as they are all gentle exercises.
One of the major boons of relaxation training has been in lessening or alleviating chronic, severe pain. Such pain can arise from many different causes, including backache and chronic migraine or tension headaches, diseases such as cancer, and even as the unintended outcome of operations to control pain.
Tai Chi (pronounced tie chee) is an ancient Chinese martial art that combines slow, focused body movements, meditation and deep breathing.
Originally used for self-defence, it is now practised as a gentle form of exercise, which has been used as part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
During a Tai Chi session, one moves slowly from one position to the next without stopping so that your body is in constant motion during the session. Because one must focus on breathing and the movements, tai chi helps focus one’s mind in a form of meditation.
The essential principles of Tai Chi are based on the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism, which stresses the natural balance in all things and the need for living in spiritual and physical accord with the patterns of nature. According to this philosophy, everything is composed of two opposite, but entirely complementary, elements of yin and yang, working in a relationship which is in perpetual balance. Tai Chi consists of exercises equally balanced between yin and yang, which is why it is so remarkably effective.
Derived from the Sanskrit word yuj, Yoga means union of the individual consciousness or soul with the Universal Consciousness or Spirit.
Yoga is a 5000 year old Indian body of knowledge, and although many individuals think of yoga as merely physical exercise, it is a whole body philosophy that creates harmony between your mind, body and spirit and helps clear and calm your mind.
Yoga teachers promote yoga as a way of staying healthy and preventing illness. They claim that the postures will stimulate your nervous system, make your muscles and joints more flexible, and relax your mind and body.
Yoga can improve your strength, mobility, bone health, cardiovascular health, breathing pattern and other physiological systems and decrease pain. Mentally, yoga can enhance well-being, lower your stress response, help manage your pain experience and help you feel more relaxed. People who practice yoga believe that it helps enhance their quality of life.
As with many types of complementary therapy one of the main reasons that people with cancer use yoga is because it makes them feel good.
This page is being updated as we can so please come back frequently to check new information
Please note that the Little Fighters Cancer Trust shares information regarding various types of cancer treatments on this blog merely for informational use.
LFCT does not endorse or promote any specific cancer treatments – we believe that the public should be informed but that the option is theirs to take as to what treatments are to be used.
Always consult your medical practitioner prior to taking any other medication, natural or otherwise.