Child life specialists help young patients get ready for radiation treatment

Memphis, Tennessee, May 18, 2016

Child Life Specialist Amy Kennedy helps a patient prepare for radiation therapy.

Child Life Specialist Amy Kennedy helps a patient prepare for radiation therapy.

Radiation may be the best treatment for children with certain brain tumors, but it can also leave patients stressed and anxious. At St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, child life specialists work with the children to develop and practice coping skills before treatment begins.

A new study from St. Jude child life specialists shows their work can also help decrease the need for sedation and lower treatment costs. The study included 116 St. Jude patients with central nervous system tumors, which are the most commonly diagnosed solid tumor in childhood. The children were 5 to 12 years old. Sedation is often used to help patients stay in the exact position needed so radiation hits the tumor and not nearby healthy tissue.

Child life specialists use play, education and other tools to help the patients before and during brain irradiation therapy. This might include letting children lie on the table to see what it’s like to stay perfectly still for several minutes. These practice sessions might help children decrease or avoid sedation during radiation treatments. That protects children with from the health risks associated with daily sedation.

The research was published in Supportive Care in Cancer.

Read the news release.

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