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Toy Treatment Machine to Help Children with Cancer

Friday, November 16, 2018

Hospital visits for children can be extremely traumatising and no more so than that of children diagnosed with cancer. 

A new project is providing radiotherapy centres across the UK a free kit of play bricks when built make a model of a linear accelerator machine to help ease their anxiety if a child needs radiotherapy treatment. 

The Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre (BWOSCC) is one of the first in Scotland to receive a donation of 100 of these brilliant models. 

Not knowing what they are going experience can be a scary thought for a child but by giving them something that shows the machine they will be getting their treatment can help ease their anxiety. 

The ‘Little Linac’ toys can be built by the child with their families and ihas been donated to the BWOSCC by The Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM), a York based charity who want to give every child in the UK undergoing radiotherapy treatment a free kit of play bricks. 

Jill Scott, Superintendent Radiographer at the BWOSCC, said:  ““The little linac is a novel and fun way of showing children and their families what our treatment machines look like and demonstrates how the linac moves and works.  

“They also enable the children to play and talk about any concerns they may have regarding radiotherapy.” 

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

Professor Brettle, who is Head of Medical Physics and Engineering at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, 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.   

“The kits underwent a patient evaluation day at my hospital in Leeds, with play therapists, healthcare staff, the patients’ families and most importantly, the children themselves. The feedback from that day was overwhelmingly positive.  Everyone thought it was a great idea and a fantastic way to help the children. 

“After their treatment is over, the 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.” 


Notes to Editors

Every year between 1,500 and 1,700 children under the age of 16 develop cancer in the UK and 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 of model bricks 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. 

The Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine is a York-based charity and is the professional organisation for physicists, clinical and biomedical engineers and technologists working in medicine and biology. IPEM has around 4,800 members working in hospitals, academia and industry across the UK, Europe and internationally. 

As a charity, IPEM’s aim is to advance the application of physics and engineering to medicine for the public benefit and to advance public education in this field. 

IPEM has bought 3,000 Little Linac kits and is donating 100 to each of the 16 paediatric radiotherapy centres across the UK. The rest are being sold to generate funds to buy the next 3,000 kits, so the project becomes self-sustaining. Every model sold enables IPEM to donate two more kits to children undergoing radiotherapy treatment. For more on the project and to order a kit or make a donation visit 

For further information either telephone 0141 201 4429 or email [email protected]

Pic:  7year old Bronwyn was the first patient to receive one of the toy linacs from Jill Scott, Superintendent Radiographer (left) and Maureen Houston, Senior Play Specialist (right)

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Last Updated: 16 November 2018