Children’s questions about treatment

What is cancer? 

You have become ill because some of the cells in your body are sick. In some children, these cells are in the head. In others, they are in the stomach or somewhere else. 

Why do I have cancer? 

It’s not your fault that you have cancer. Nobody knows what really causes the illness. All we know is that nobody is to blame for your illness. Not you, your parents, nor anybody else. Cancer is not contagious. Anybody can get it, including more than 200 other boys and girls in Switzerland every year. That’s about as many children as there are in your school, or in the district or village in which you live. So you’re not alone. You’ll probably meet other children with cancer in the waiting room at the Center for Proton Therapy. 

Why am I being treated with proton beams? 

Some beams (or radiation) can destroy cancer cells. We are using these beams to make you healthy again. The beams used at PSI are called proton beams. 

Are proton beams like rays of sunlight? 

Proton beams are a little like rays of sunlight. They are also a bit like the X-rays that doctors use when somebody has broken their leg and it needs to be examined by taking a special kind of photo. But there are differences between these kinds of beams: proton beams consist of lots of tiny particles, which are especially good at destroying the cancer cells in your body. 

Is radiation unpleasant? Will it hurt? 

It won’t hurt at all. You won’t feel or see the proton beams. The only thing that might bother or bore you is lying still for such a long time. 

Why do I need a cushion or a mask during radiation? 

So that you will be in exactly the same position every time you get treatment and so that the protons can hit the cancer cells exactly where they need to. 

Why do small children sleep during their radiation treatment? 

Small children can’t lie still as well as older children. So sleeping helps them to stay in the right position, just like the cushion or the mask. If you are a bit older, you’ll probably manage quite well without going to sleep. 

Do you have any tips to help me get through therapy? 

If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask the grown-ups. They’ll explain everything you need to know. And always remember that you are here so that you’ll feel better afterwards and can get back to living a normal life and go back to playschool or school and play with your friends.