Scans will be used to diagnose retinoblastoma and assess whether cancer has spread beyond your child’s eye.
Imaging scans are also used during treatment and follow up care to see how your child’s body is responding to treatment, and how it is growing, developing, and functioning through the medical experience.
Scan preparation is important to ensure your child’s comfort, co-operation and ability to master the procedure.
MRI, CT, GFR and bones scans require that the child lay still for periods of time. This can be difficult for young children, but with some fun preparation activities, even young children can successfully complete these assessments and keep their bodies still.
Teaching a young child about staying still can be made fun through games and play related activities. Many young children explore pretend play, and may benefit from acting out stories and concepts you present, that will help them understand how to stay still.
Some of these stories and concepts are:
Caterpillar to Butterfly Metamorphosis
Caterpillars go into a cocoon and through metamorphosis, change into a butterfly. While they are in the cocoon, they lay perfectly still while their body changes into a butterfly. Read the story “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” to learn about caterpillars and butterflies. Then practice pretending to be a caterpillar staying perfectly still in a cocoon.
Sleeping Bunnies Song
Sleeping Bunnies is a short, simple song about Bunnies that are in bed, asleep. While singing this song, children participate by playing still, like the bunnies in their beds until the singer/adult tells them it is time to wake up and Hop, Hop, Hop!
Practice this song for fun at home, and each time try to extend the amount of time the bunnies need to lay still before waking to hop hop hop!
Sleeping Bunnies Song Lyrics
See the little bunnies, sleeping ‘til its noon.
Come let us wake them with a merry tune.
Oh so still, are they ill? [……..quiet pause……….]
Wake up little bunnies hop hop hop!
Wake up little bunnies hop and stop!
This involves holding your body still like a statue. Talk about statues with your child and try out different poses. The game can include listening to music then “freezing” your body like a statue when the music stops. If there is a statue in your town, visit it with your child to see how the statue looks, what position the statue is in and who it depicts.
General Pretend Play
General play should include practicing playing still while laying down on the floor, sofa or bed and imagining you are holding still like a caterpillar/bunny/statue for the scan. Practice helps a child become familiar with what will happen, and what to expect.
MRI and CT scans involve going through the machine. Pretending to be a statue/caterpillar/bunny holding still while riding on a train can be a fun and easily understood concept. This includes the importance of holding still and the fact that the child will be moving through something like a tunnel.
MRI Scan Preparation
MRI can be particularly noisy, and requires some advanced preparation for young children. Start by talking about what an MRI does, a simple verbal explanation is enough – it takes pictures of inside your body to see how you are growing and developing.
Then share photos of real MRI machines and the MRI environment, which can easily be found on the internet, or from your medical team.
Next you can offer simulations of the experience using toys, dolls and materials. Pretend to give MRIs to the dolls or stuffed animals. A variety of specially designed doll-sized MRI models are available for purchase. However, if you are unable to access a model like this, use your imagination with your child to create your own MRI.
Recycled boxes and some glue or tape can be excellent items for making your own MRI. Dollhouse beds can be adapted to move through a cardboard tunnel and simulate an MRI.
Finally it is important to explain the loud sounds an MRI makes. Some sequences sound like hard tapping, while others can sound as loud as a jet engine. Some of these sounds can be found on the internet, allowing you and your child to listen together and become familiar with them.
MRI technicians will give your child protective ear plugs or covers that reduce noise during the scan. Some Machines in children’s hospitals offer a special TV screen that the child can watch during the scan. Some offer audio music during the scan.
Talk to your medical team in advance about what options your child may have. This will enable you to accurately prepare your child, and you may even select your own DVD or CD for your child to enjoy during the scan.
Parents and child life specialists are often able to be present to support a child during the scanning process. Talk to your medical team about whether you can stay and whether a child life specialist is available for advanced preparation and support during the procedure.