Liver Cancer

The two most common types of liver cancers in children are Hepatoblastoma and Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC), they account for 1-2% of all childhood cancers.

  • Hepatoblastoma is the most common and occurs most commonly in children between the ages of two months and two years.
  • HCC is a rare cancer in children (more common in adults) but usually occurs between the ages of 10-16 years.

Signs and symptoms

Common symptoms include a lump or swelling of the abdomen, weight loss, poor appetite, nausea/vomiting and on rare occasions, jaundice.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is confirmed using ultrasounds, x-rays, MRI and CT scans. Blood tests are vital as most liver tumours produce a protein known as alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) which is released into the blood stream. Measuring the levels of AFP in the blood marks the presence of a tumour or can also indicate whether the tumour is responding to treatment or relapsing.

Treatment

In both tumour types, the aim is to completely remove the tumour via surgery to give the best chance for treatment to be successful. Sometimes chemotherapy is used to make the surgery more successful.

  • Hepatoblastoma responds well to chemotherapy both before and after surgery.
  • HCC does NOT respond well to chemotherapy and is usually treated with surgery alone.

Side Effects

Side effects are caused by the use of chemotherapy as a treatment.