Preparing for procedures

Tests and procedures for cancer can cause pain, fear and anxiety. There are ways to help manage this.

Your medical team can help prepare your child for the test and help your child find positive ways to cope with the test. 

Local Anaesthesia (Numbing the skin and tissues)

Before a test is done, a numbing medicine (such as EMLA or ANGEL cream) can be placed on the skin where the needle will be placed.The cream numbs the skin and tissue. 

After the cream has numbed the surface of the skin, another numbing medicine (called local anaesthetic) may also be given using a small needle that is placed a little bit deeper into the tissue.

The numbing medicine may sting a little bit, but after one to two minutes, the tissue will feel numb all the way down to the bone.

Using this type of pain medicine alone may be useful for older children who can lie very still for tests.  If extra pain control is needed, we can also inject local anaesthetic. 


Sedation is the use of medicines that may make your child feel calm and sleepy and possibly not remember having the test done e.g. fentanyl, morphine or midazolam. 

Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is also a commonly used medicine for sedation and pain relief and is given by a mask. 

Using one or more of these types of medicines together helps some children relax and not experience pain during the test.

  • your child will be closely monitored for changes in breathing and blood pressure
  • there may be on an oxygen monitor during the test until your child is fully awake 
  • you may be asked to make sure that your child does not eat any solid food or drink liquids for a period of time before these medicines are given. 

General Anaesthesia

General anaesthesia (or GA as it is commonly called) is the use of an anaesthetic medicine, given into a vein or by a mask, to make your child fall asleep. Your child will not feel pain, move, or remember the test during or after general anaesthesia.

Examples of medicines used for general anaesthesia are Ketamine and Propofol. Your child:

  • will not be able to eat solid foods or drink liquids for a few hours before the test
  • will be watched closely on a heart monitor during the test until fully awake
  • monitored during and after the test by an anaesthetic doctor, trained to give general anaesthesia. 

Explaining the procedure

With older children, time is spent explaining the details of the procedure.

With younger children, the play therapist is available to explain procedures using a calico doll and medical equipment. This gives the child the opportunity to play with the doll and simulate the procedure.

The importance of remaining still during the procedure is explained and a prize or gift offered as an incentive. 

Play therapist

The play therapist is available to help distract your child during procedures and teach coping skills

The play therapist is always happy to spend time with you and your child to explain procedures and help dispel any fears or concerns.

Parents and children are welcome to visit the procedures unit in the Day Only Unit for explanations and assistance. 

Last updated Wednesday 26th June 2024