Treatment options for childhood cancer

According to the Children's Cancer Centre at KK Women's and Children's Hospital​, the treatment options available will depend on the type of cancer being treated. For example, surgery is usually necessary for solid tumours, but chemotherapy is the treatment of choice for leukaemia because the cancer cells are already present in the blood, circulating throughout the body.


  • Surgery is required for most solid tumours. However, if the initial position or size of the tumour makes the operation high-risk, chemotherapy or radiotherapy may be given fir​st to reduce the size of the tumour.

Radiation therapy

  • Radiation destroys cancer cells by injuring their ability to divide. Special equipment directs rays to the tumour site for a few minutes at a time. This is done five times a week for two to six weeks depending on the type of tumour. Side effects include skin irritation and pigmentation, which are usually temporary.


  • This involves the use of drugs that interfere with cell division and stop the growth of tumour cells. The drugs circulate throughout the body and can kill cancer cells far away from the original tumour site.
  • This is the mainstay of leukaemia therapy. Some chemotherapy drugs are given by injection while others can be taken orally.
  • Side effects include hair loss, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, mouth ulcers and increased risk of infection. Steps can be taken to prevent or reduce these side effects.

Cord blood / Bone marrow transplantation

  • This is used mainly for high-risk leukaemia or relapsed leukaemia, but can be used to treat other types of cancer as well. High doses of chemotherapy with or without radiotherapy are given to kill cancer cells. However, the body’s normal blood stem cells are also destroyed by the intensive treatment. Healthy blood stem cells from a donor are then transplanted into the body to replace the destroyed normal cells.
  • Cord blood is a good alternative source of stem cells. There is an active cord blood transplant programme at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH). The Singapore Cord Blood Bank is also sited at KKH.

The Children’s Cancer Programme at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital

KK Hospital

The Children’s Cancer Centre at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital​ (KKH) of​fers a holistic, comprehensive range of services to treat children with cancer, and support the emotional needs of their families. Multidisciplinary teams consist of paediatric oncologists, paediatric oncology surgeons, paediatric ne​uro-surgeons and oncology-trained nurses.

Our inpatient ward has 15 beds with 4 bone marrow transplant rooms manned by a dedicated team of doctors and nurses trained in the care of children with cancer. There is also a 12-bed Day Therapy Centre for outpatient treatment and a pharmacy which dispenses oncology drugs.

We work closely with social workers from the hospital and the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF) to offer psychosocial support to patients and their families. The diagnosis of cancer in a child is always devastating for both the child and the family. We hope to work together with our patients and their families to achieve the common goal of conquering childhood cancer.

See previous page for facts on children's cancer​ and its symptoms.

Ref: W09