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Childhood Cancers: Liver Cancer

Childhood liver cancer or hepatoma , is a rare disease in which cancer (malignant) cells are found in the tissues of the liver. There are two types of cancer that start in the liver, based on how the cancer cells look under a microscope:

  • Hepatoblastoma is more common in young children before age 3 and may be caused by an abnormal gene . Children of families whose members carry a gene related to a certain kind of colon cancer may be more likely to develop hepatoblastoma.
  • Hepatocellular Cancer. Children infected with hepatitis B or C are more likely than other children to get hepatocellular cancer. Immunisation to prevent hepatitis B may decrease the chance of developing hepatocellular cancer. Hepatocellular cancer is found in children from birth to 19 years of age.

If a child displays symptoms, a CT scan , a liver scan or a biopsy (removal and analysis of a small amount of tissue from the liver using a needle inserted into the abdomen) will help confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment and Prognosis

Treatment and prognosis will depend on the type (hepatoblastoma or hepatocellular carcinoma), the stage of the cancer (find out if the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body), the child's general health, the child's age and the histology of the cancer (how the cancer cells look under a microscope).

There are 4 main types of treatment for children with liver cancer:

  • Surgery (taking out the cancer in an operation).
  • Chemotherapy (using drugs to kill cancer cells).
  • Radiation therapy (using high-dose x-rays to kill cancer cells).
  • Liver transplantation (replacing the cancerous liver with a donated one).

For further, more detailed information on this topic, please refer to the reference source for this page.

The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken from the following source(s):
1. Pediatric Cancers, University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center:

Other HON resources 
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Carcinoma, Hepatocellular:
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Carcinoma, Hepatocellular


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Contact Last modified: Oct 20 2004