The best possible preparation
Together with the rest of the team, Dr. Karen Van Beek determines when a child can best be radiated with proton therapy. Once that direction is clear and the NIHDI file complete, the parents and the child come for their first consultation. This is one of the most exciting moments in the treatment process.
"At this consultation, we try to prepare the parents and the child as well as possible for what’s about to come. Sometimes a child has already had chemotherapy or surgery, but often not. In that last case, you arrive here and immediately there’s talk of a long treatment, one which often involves 30 to 33 radiations, six weeks at a time. That does have a big impact. Usually there are a lot of questions, concerns, fears."
By listening carefully and really investing a lot of time in preparing the child and parents, we can address many of those concerns.
"We feel it is necessary to invest enough time in this preparation. Talking a lot and explaining a lot. For example, we put children up to 5 or 6 years old to sleep because lying still during the treatment is much too difficult for them, and there are often a lot of questions about that. We also try to be as transparent as possible about possible long-term consequences. But by listening carefully and taking your time, you can allay many concerns. You feel that if the parents have confidence, things also go more smoothly with the child."
"Fortunately, childhood cancer, as well as radiation for children, is still rare. Of course, that also means that this expertise is not present in every radiation centre. It is a great advantage that we can now pool that expertise from different centres in PARTICLE and discuss difficult situations together."
"I find it very special to be able to welcome children from all over the country and to be able to take care of them. And of course it's nice that we no longer have to refer them abroad for proton therapy."