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Cancer Health Center

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Unusual Cancers of Childhood (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Treatment Option Overview

There are different types of treatment for children with unusual cancers.

Different types of treatments are available for children with cancer. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment.

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Because cancer in children is rare, taking part in a clinical trial should be considered. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

Children with unusual cancers should have their treatment planned by a team of health care providers with expertise in treating cancer in children.

Treatment will be overseen by a pediatric oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating children with cancer. The pediatric oncologist works with other pediatric health care providers who are experts in treating children with cancer and who specialize in certain areas of medicine. These may include the following specialists:

  • Pediatrician.
  • Pediatric surgeon.
  • Pediatric hematologist.
  • Neurosurgeon.
  • Neurologist.
  • Neuropathologist.
  • Neuroradiologist.
  • Radiation oncologist.
  • Pediatric nurse specialist.
  • Rehabilitation specialist.
  • Endocrinologist.
  • Social worker.
  • Psychologist.

Seven types of standard treatment are used:

Surgery

Surgery is a procedure used to find out whether cancer is present, to remove cancer from the body, or to repair a body part. Palliative surgery is done to relieve symptoms caused by cancer. Surgery is also called an operation.

Even if the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the surgery, some patients may be given chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Treatment given after the surgery, to lower the risk that the cancer will come back, is called adjuvant therapy.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance that is injected into the body or sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer.

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