Radiation oncology treatments can be a very important part of treating many cancers, including cancers found in both children and adults. Radiation exposure is not benign, as too much radiation can cause many unpleasant side effects including an increased risk of cancer. However, when used and targeted appropriately--the area of expertise of radiation oncologists--radiation can be very effective in helping treat certain kinds of tumors that may otherwise be impossible to operate on or resistant to medical chemotherapy
When your son is evaluated by a radiation oncology specialist
, he or she will take into account the location of the tumor, the type of cancer, and your son's age. There are very carefully defined guidelines for how much radiation can be given to certain parts of the body or in children vs. adults. There are risks involved, but your child's doctor
should be able to talk with you about the risks and benefits--radiation is never offered as a treatment for cancer unless it is felt to help either cure the tumor; provide a significant increase in survival time; or relieve pain or other symptoms that cannot be addressed any other way. In addition, children who receive radiation therapy and become survivors of pediatric malignancies are followed closely for the rest of their lives to manage any long term side effects.
In general, you should discuss all of your questions with your child's doctor.