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Lego set makes treatment easier for child cancer patients

All photos © UZ Leuven

Children undergoing treatment for cancer have an easier time with the therapy by using a kit made up of Lego blocks, according to doctors at the Leuven university hospital.

The idea came from the inter-university proton therapy centre situated on the campus of the Gasthuisberg hospital in Leuven. This is a highly specialised piece of equipment for difficult cases, involving imposing machinery that can be frightening for children.

The proton therapy treatment area

But by providing children with a Lego set that allows them to build the apparatus, the treatment room and other equipment, they become more at ease with their surroundings.

By recreating the setting themselves, the children know better what to expect and they become familiar with the different steps of their treatment,” the hospital explains.

In addition, the building set is a fun and accessible way to explain to family or friends at school what will happen to them in the hospital.”

The project is the brainchild of Professor Tom Depuydt, medical radiation physicist at UZ Leuven.

The attraction of Lego building blocks is timeless. With this set, the children build an authentic model of the IBA radiation equipment. It is important that the children remain calm during the radiation in order to be able to carry out the treatment as accurately as possible. If they are less anxious because they know what is going to happen, then less anaesthesia is needed.”

12-year-old Ella at work

Twelve-year-old proton therapy patient Ella concurs.

The kit will be a lifelong memory for me. I really enjoyed making it, so the time in the hospital passed a little faster. And my family was able to see where I went every day for six weeks. My dad was secretly a bit jealous of my set of Lego bricks.”