Cancer (oncology)

What is cancer?

Cancer is the abnormal growth of cells within the body. Throughout our lives, the healthy cells in our bodies divide and replicate themselves in a controlled sequence, which enables us to grow, replace worn-out cells and heal damaged cells after an injury. Sometimes, however, cells begin to reproduce abnormally and will spread to other parts of the body in a process called metastasis. These abnormal or cancerous cells can interfere with the ability of the body to perform its normal functions, causing disability, illness and potentially death.  

There are approximately 200 different types of cancer affecting most parts of the body and all can be life-threatening. They all have different causes, cause different symptoms and vary in aggressiveness (the speed at which they spread).

How do we help children who have cancer?

The Children's Hospital at Westmead and Sydney Children's Hospital provide multidisciplinary care to children with cancer in inpatient, outpatient and community care settings.

The dedicated Oncology Ward (Camperdown Ward) at The Children's Hospital at Westmead accommodates 20 inpatients (general oncology and bone marrow transplant (BMT) specific beds). Outpatient care is delivered through a dedicated outpatient facility, which also handles day-only admissions for procedures, investigations and treatment. On two days each week, the Centre provides general anaesthetic services for patients undergoing painful procedures such as bone marrow aspirate and lumbar punctures.

At Sydney Children's Hospital, cancer services account for approximately 80 per cent of the work of the Kids Cancer Centre. The Medical Oncology Service has 16 beds on C2 West (Turnbull) Ward. At any time there are an average 25 inpatients, with four to five patients in Infectious Diseases beds, two patients in the Neurology Ward, and two patients in ICU. There are four purpose designed BMT rooms and two purpose-built step-down rooms.

The Sydney Children's Hospitals Network provides:

  • Diagnostic investigations and identification of disease
  • Prescription and administration of chemotherapy and other adjuvant drugs, through participating in active Phase III clinical trials and best practice guidelines
  • Experimental Phase I/II trials – collation, interpretation, submission of data
  • Stem cell harvest and apheresis services
  • Autologous and allogeneic stem cell transplantation
  • Surveillance, identification and management of late effects of therapy
  • Provision of complex supportive care including palliative care
  • Support for educational needs of children, and families
  • Psychosocial support
  • Outreach clinics, and supports child cancer survivorship clinics

Sydney Cord Blood Bank

The Sydney Cord Blood Bank forms part of a national network of cord blood banks in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. This network collects and banks cord blood from voluntary donors for anonymous use by patients needing a stem cell transplant. It is located at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick.