Radiation therapy is a common form of treatment for cancer. Even children with cancer often receive radiation therapy, but there is a challenge.
"Getting radiation treatment doesn't hurt, but the children are left alone and have to lie still. Many are also beamed to the head and then they wear a kind of uncomfortable mask that is strapped to the table", says Catarina Cederved, researcher at Uppsala University, in a press release.
One way to get children to lie completely still is to put them to sleep. It is done with small children, but doctors prefer not to put older children to sleep.
"Being put to sleep several times means long fasting periods, which is not good for a growing individual. In these cases, the body is already under stress due to the disease and is therefore even more in need of optimal food intake", says Catarina Cederved.
To avoid putting children to sleep, Catarina Cederved now runs an interdisciplinary project at the Skandion Clinic in Uppsala, where children with cancer from all over Sweden come for treatment. The project involves creating a computer game that calms the children before the treatment. In the game, children play through a treatment so that they understand exactly what is happening, which reduces anxiety.
"It is a learning game where the children get to play their way through a radiation session and get the opportunity to see different coping strategies that they can use to be able to lie still while they are being irradiated", says Catarina Cederved.
The game has been tested on children and their feedback is now used to continue developing the game. The goal is for the game to be available to all children who need to undergo radiation treatment at the Skandion Clinic and facilitate the entire treatment process.
"For the individual, every opportunity not to be sedated is a win. Just that the children feel safer in a care environment is a win", says Catarina Cederved.