Toy treatment machines to help children with cancer

Children undergoing cancer therapy in Newcastle are being given toy models of the machines used in their treatment to help ease their anxiety.

The Little Linac project is being rolled out to children’s radiotherapy centres across the country, thanks to the York-based Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM).

The charity wants to give every child in the UK undergoing radiotherapy treatment for cancer a free kit of play bricks to make a model linear accelerator machine - Linac for short - which is used in their treatment.

Every year between 1,500 and 1,700 children under the age of 16 develop cancer in the UK. The aim of the model is to help reduce the child’s anxiety through play, by allowing them to see and understand what the machine looks like and how it moves around them during their treatment.

As well as the Linac, the kit also makes three other imaging or treatment machines the child may encounter during their time in hospital – an MRI scanner, a gamma camera and a CT scanner.

Lynn Dutton, a health play specialist at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care, based at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, said: “They will be a good play prep tool and it’s nice to have the choice of different models, due to the fact that a lot of patients are on different machines now. I think they are a really good idea to help reduce anxiety for the children.”

Oliver Chillmaid, aged four, from Sunderland, was one of the first children in the area to make a model machine with the help of his dad, Graeme, who said: “Oliver said it was just like his machine. He thinks it’s really cool.”

The Little Linac project was the brainchild of Professor David Brettle when he was President of IPEM.

Prof Brettle said: “Toy bricks are every child’s favourite toy and are an ideal way to educate young patients about their treatment in a way that is designed to reduce their stress and anxiety, and so contribute to successful treatment sessions.  

“After their treatment is over, my challenge to the children is to use the bricks to make something very different; a rocket, a rabbit, a robot, as part of their transition back to a more normal life.”

Every Little Linac model that is sold will enable IPEM to donate two more kits to children undergoing radiotherapy treatment for cancer. People who want to buy a Little Linac should visit the IPEM website at www.ipem.ac.uk to place an order.

To read more about the Little Linac project visit: https://tinyurl.com/littlelinac


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