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Radiation therapy


Radiation therapy (RT) is used to destroy tumor or leukemia cells to help control cancer. The treatments take place in an area of St. Jude called Radiation Oncology. The doctor in this area is called a radiation oncologist. This doctor will explain to you:

  • How the staff will give RT to your child;
  • What areas of your child’s body will be treated; and
  • How long the treatment will last and the side effects.

The staff will discuss the treatment plan with you. This plan will tell you how long your child may be in Radiation Oncology at each visit and the total number of treatments your child may have.

Radiation therapy guidelines

By following these guidelines you will help us better serve your child and all St. Jude patients.

  • Arrive on time for radiation therapy visits. If you will be late please, call 901-595-3655. If you are late, your child may have to wait until other patients receive their treatments.
  • Before each visit, check in at Patient Registration either in the Patient Care Center or the Chili Care Center. Tell the registration staff that you are here for radiation therapy. Then, go to the Radiation Oncology waiting area. Sign in with the greeter at the desk. Please stay in the waiting area until the staff calls your child’s name.
  • Before the first treatment, your child will have a CT scan and sometimes a magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI) for planning purposes. This is called “simulation." The scan(s) focus on the area of the body that will be treated. Sometimes, a staff member will put marks on your child’s skin in this area. These marks are very important! The staff uses them to make sure the same area is treated each time. You may wash the area gently but do not scrub. Scrubbing can remove the marks and can also irritate your child’s skin. In some cases the marks are not needed after simulation is completed. The simulation therapist will tell you if you may remove the marks after simulation. A device to help your child stay in the same position every day during treatment will also be made at this time. The nurse will explain more about this to you before the simulation.
  • In most cases, the therapist will place very small tattoos (freckle size) on your child’s skin using a very small, sterilized needle. Only the tip of the needle is used to make the mark, which is permanent and does not interfere with any other treatment your child will receive.
  • For children younger than 6, the staff may use anesthesia. This medicine will help your child stay still during the treatments. If anesthesia is needed, a nurse will give you NPO (nothing by mouth) guidelines. (See “Do you know… Fasting Guidelines.”) The nursewill also tell you when to come to the Radiation Oncology sedation room. One parent or caregiver may accompany your child to the induction room and remain there until your child goes to sleep.
  • After the initial treatment, each parent is invited to watch a treatment on separate days. The staff also has a video about the treatment that you can watch.
  • After each parent has had a chance to observe a treatment, the staff asks that parents and family members stay in the Radiation Oncology waiting area. This helps the staff focus on the patient and the treatment. A parent or other adult should always be with the patient when he comes to Radiation Oncology for exams and treatments.

During your child's radiation treatment plan

  • While your child is having radiation therapy, he will go to Assessment/Triage one (1) time per week. For some patients, the staff will collect blood or urine for lab work one (1) or 2 times a week.
  • Other tests that the doctor might order include hearing tests, eye exams, dental exams, CT scans or MRIs, and X-rays. Your doctor or nurse in Radiation Oncology will tell you about these tests.
  • The radiation oncologist will do a weekly exam of your child. The primary clinic doctor might also examine your child each week.


If you have questions or concerns after reading this handout, talk to a doctor, nurse, or other staff member in Radiation Oncology. If you are in the local area, call 901-595-3655. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), extension 3655.

If your child has never had radiation treatment, a Child Life specialist can help explain what is going to happen. Also, “Do you know… Preparing your child/teen for radiation” may be helpful.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).