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hospital and cancer treatment


When a child is diagnosed with cancer, they enter often unfamiliar territory of appointments, tests, hospitals and treatments. You’ll have a team of medical professionals and support workers ready to help you navigate it, but sometimes it can be helpful to know more about what to expect. 

treatment in hospital

Where a young person is treated will most likely depend on their age. They can be sent to either a paediatric (children’s) or adult facility. Their hospital may also depend on where they live or even what type of cancer they have. Not all hospitals offer cancer treatment, so you may have to travel, especially if you live in a regional or rural area.


Some Australian hospitals have dedicated units or wards especially for teenagers and young adults with cancer, staffed by specialist medical teams. Talk to your local Youth Cancer Service for more information.

treatment as an outpatient

While most young people stay in hospital at least a few nights initially, they can also be treated as outpatients – someone who comes in just during the day for treatment. Many people cycle through different stages of treatment both in hospital and as outpatients.

staying in hospital

Some young people end up in hospital very quickly once they are diagnosed. This is where a Redkite diagnosis support pack can be useful. 


Whether parents and other family members can stay overnight will depend on the hospital’s policy. Generally, paediatric hospitals will try to let carers stay and have facilities for this. 


If you are staying in hospital for a long period for treatment, some things you can do to make it more comfortable include:

  • Bringing in familiar things from home - photos, posters, your pillows and doonas etc
  • Inviting visitors, or if you don’t feel up to it, posting a “do not disturb” sign
  • Getting online to stay in touch with friends, keep people up-to-date via social media, or check out other cancer stories
  • Catching up on the books you’ve been meaning to read, the DVD series you missed, or even work if you have the energy

staying near hospital

If you’re travelling a long distance to support a young person through treatment, you might be concerned about where you’ll stay. There are services that can help with accommodation, including:

You may also qualify for the patient transit scheme or equivalent in your state. Ask your hospital social worker about your options.

hospital visitors

Every hospital will have different rules regarding visiting hours, but visitors are generally encouraged. If the young person is at risk of infection, visitors may need to wear protective clothing like gowns and gloves to prevent the spread of germs.


It can be helpful to connect the diagnosed young person with friends, extended family and school or work mates. At the same time, you may need to reassure them if some people don’t visit. Unfortunately, this isn’t uncommon, as hospitals make some people uncomfortable.


Don't forget your hospital social worker and the Redkite support team are here to talk through managing your hospital stay as well as returning home. 

your treating team

Understanding who does what in a cancer treatment team can be challenging. Here’s an overview of what each person’s job is:

  • Oncologist – a doctor specialising in cancer. There are three varieties of these:
    • Medical Oncologist – diagnoses and treats patients (including use of chemotherapy)
    • Radiation Oncologist – will decide if a patient needs radiation therapy and look after this process
    • Surgical Oncologist – specialises in using surgery to remove cancer
  • Haematologist – a doctor specialising in blood diseases including lymphoma or leukaemia
  • Consultant – a doctor who has completed their specialist training
  • Registrar – a doctor who is completing their specialist training
  • Resident/Intern – a junior doctor who will work with the Registrar
  • Radiologist – looks at and interprets your x-rays, MRIs and CAT scans
  • Nurses – they can also have different roles:
    • Registered Nurse (or RN) – a "regular" nurse who provides care in hospitals
    • Oncology Nurse – a registered nurse who has specialist training in cancer care
  • Cancer Care Coordinator – a nurse who is the main point of contact for cancer patients and their families, who will help liaise with your medical team
  • Social worker – a health professional who can support patients and families with emotional, social and practical support, information, counselling, navigating the health system, and making connections to other support services
  • Clinical psychologist – a trained therapist who can assist with the psychological aspects of dealing with cancer

There may be also be people like physiotherapists, music therapists or dietitians who are there to help with some of the challenges or side effects of treatment. These people can form what is called a multidisciplinary team (or MDT) – a team of professionals from all different areas (or disciplines) working together to make sure each young person is getting the best possible care.

Last updated September 2015.