Keeping young cancer patients still during their radiation treatments used to require sedation. Now, a Canadian hospital is using entertainment instead.
The Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary is using the iPad to calm young cancer patients during the half-hour treatments by letting them watch movies and TV shows.
In 2010, the cancer center teamed up with SAIT Polytechnic to rig an arm to attach the tablet computer to the radiation treatment couch. With the iPad in place, the hospital reports five out of the eight kids in the 4-to-7-year-old age group didn’t require sedatives to keep them from fidgeting.
Distracting kids from painful procedures isn’t new, but the Canadian kids may be among the youngest to undergo radiation without sedation.
Studies show older children allowed to play video games during and after treatment are better able to cope with pain. Several previously studies found the young distracted patients had less nausea, lower systolic blood pressure and needed fewer pain medications than their counterparts who were simply asked to rest.
Tom Baker Cancer Center radiation therapist Amanda Jacques says many parents are relieved that their child is no longer upset by coming to treatment.
“The children now enter the treatment room without fear to eagerly select their movie,” said Jacques, who led the project with fellow radiation therapist Stacey Allan.
Mona Udowicz, a radiation therapy manager at the cancer center said the iPad is letting the kids lead more normal lives.
She says the sedation can affect a child throughout an entire day and make play and learning difficult to impossible. Eliminating sedation lets the children eat, go to school and be generally more active.
Shawna Feradi’s 6-year-old son, Jordon, is one of the children who used the iPad during treatment for incurable brain-stem cancer.
She said her son was able to lie still during radiation because he could concentrate on the movie rather than the procedure. Because of this, the amount of time they spend at the hospital has been dramatically reduced, she said.