The Cancer Centre for Children is located within The Children's Hospital at Westmead and is a world-class facility with highly qualified and skilled staff. It is the largest comprehensive paediatric Treatment Centre in New South Wales and provides support to several hundred young patients with cancer and their families each year.
Since the centre was established in 1976 it has treated more than 5,000 children and adolescents. Advances in research and clinical care mean that today 80% of children diagnosed with cancer will be cured and become long-term survivors.
The Cancer Centre for children caters to about 40 patients a day performing a variety of services including blood collection, doctor visits and treatments.
The clinic is normally open from 8.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. from Monday to Friday.
A visit begins with an appointment
When making an appointment or inquiring about an appointment please be ready to quote your child's full name, address, date of birth and the medical record number if the child has been to the hospital before.
When you are given a time for your child's appointments, please remember that this is a guide only for when they will be seen. Depending on how busy the clinic is, you may be at the hospital for several hours.
Doctors see children for appointments from 8.00 a.m. until 1.00 p.m..
If your child is unwell
Children who are unwell, and normally visit the Oncology Treatment Clinic, are not required to go to the Emergency Department but can see their regular doctors in the OTC who are familiar with their needs. Often children experiencing this kind of emergency are admitted to hospital through the clinic.
Meet Donna and Mira
Children, who have been booked in for an appointment, are asked to arrive about 30 minutes earlier in order to check in at the administration desk with Donna or Mira who will organize pathology tests for most children so the results will be ready when they see the doctor.
Plenty to do in the waiting room
The Cancer Centre for Children's big waiting room has many resources to entertain, distract, educate and pass the time. Your child can play with toys, do craft, work with a school teacher or just relax on comfortable chairs with a book or device.
There are iPads, portable DVD players, laptops and Nintendo DS consoles available for children to use when they are in the room.
Music and play
Your children can enjoy being read a story as part of a group, or have fun with music, at various times each week. Children can play and explore a range of musical instruments and props while singing their favourite songs. These sessions provide an opportunity for self-expression, provide distraction before and after appointments, and develop social skills through peer interaction, joint play and learning to take turns. Our Music Therapists and Child Life Therapists run these activities and by focussing on being positive and having fun can help lower stress in children and distract them from worries.
Medical procedures can can seem more normal and be less worrying to children when they are explained using language and pictures they can understand. The 'Wondero' books were developed by Lisa Carnovale and Cathy Quinn, who are Child Life Therapists and show Wondero with a central line and having a bone marrow transplant. These books are available in the waiting room for you to use with your child.
Your child can search our 'I spy' posters, located in the blood room and doctor's rooms, to provide a distraction from procedures. They can also pick a distraction toy from the baskets in the blood room to use during their next blood test.
You are always welcome to ask our Child Life Therapists for information about helping your child to cope better.
Oncology Playroom Volunteers
We have highly valued and appreciated volunteers are in the playroom every day who can help you. They can:
Sit with your child for a short while if you wish to go and get a coffee
Get PlayStation and Xbox games for you to use in the waiting room
Set up craft activities
Keep you company
Get an iPad for you to use while you're in the waiting room
Get play dough, games or activities
If there is anything else you need, just ask our volunteers or a staff member. They are always happy to help.
And there's more...
Sometimes there are teachers available to do a little schoolwork with your child, volunteers doing craft, and toys like Lego.
First are pathology tests
A nurse collects blood for tests from your child’s central line, or a finger prick, which usually only takes about ten minutes. Other tests might include weighing your child on a set of scales, measuring their height, and checking their blood pressure.
These activities take place in a room next to the reception desk and from there children go to the waiting room to wait until the doctor can see them. You may wait for around 45 minutes to an hour depending on how busy it is or if there is an urgent case that needs priority assistance.
Then you see the doctor
When called to see a doctor, your child is shown to one of the six brightly coloured consultation rooms. The colours are fun and vibrant but also practical as it is easy for you and your child to visit the red, green or blue room rather than looking for a room number.
If a doctor needs to consult with you, or there is a period of time where your child may get bored, there are toys in a basket for them to play with and a small desk in each room where they can draw or colour in.
Children are in the consultation rooms for varying lengths of time. Often they will be seen for around 15 to 20 minutes but this varies depending on their unique needs.
After reviewing the your child’s pathology, and examining them, the doctor will usually organise treatment, if the child is able to do it, which takes place in the treatment rooms.
Ready for treatment
When your child is ready to have treatment, nurses are notified electronically via a large monitor in the nurses’ area. They then organise the treatment according the doctor’s directions.
Two treatment rooms
There are two treatment rooms, with distractions in each for treatments which can cause discomfort or are distressing, including a tall cylinder filled with water that bubbles that your child can use a remote control on to make different colours; a projector that spins coloured spots of light that move across the walls and ceiling; an assortment of toys; and an elaborately painted mural they can look at to find creatures like bees, fairies or dragonflies.
Treatments that might be given include chemotherapy, which varies according to your child’s needs and might last from five minutes to over six hours, blood or platelet transfusions, and support care such as anti-nausea, antibiotics, IV fluids and anti-fungals.
A large room with three beds allows children to lie down in the treatment area when needed and a room with many comfortable chairs enables them to sit comfortably while having treatment. An isolation room, in the treatment area, keeps children separate if infection is deemed a problem.
Minor procedures are also conducted. Lumbar punctures and bone marrow aspirations are normally done on Mondays and Thursdays. CT scans are often done on Tuesdays and MRIs are usually done on Wednesdays.
Younger children often require anesthetic and need to be checked by a doctor before having procedures they may be unable to remain calm and still such as when attending the radiology department.
Sometimes chemotherapy may require a patient to remain the hospital overnight and more extensive treatment might require a stay of up to five days. Planned chemotherapy may require longer stays if there are complications such as nausea or a fever.
The Oncology Treatment Clinic is home to a variety of clinics that perform vital functions.
The Bone Marrow Transplant Clinic treats patients about three times a week and has follow-up procedures.
The Long Term Follow-up Clinic treats patients who completed their cancer treatment over five years ago.
The Neuro-oncology Clinic treats children with brain tumours. It has a strong emphasis on clinical trials to improve outcomes for children.