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Liver cancer is rare in children and teens. It accounts for 1-2% of pediatric cancers. Types of pediatric liver cancer include hepatoblastoma, hepatocellular carcinoma, and undifferentiated embryonal sarcoma of the liver.
The liver is a large organ on the top right side of the abdomen. It has several important functions. The liver helps clear waste from the blood, makes bile to help digest food, and stores energy to fuel the body. Liver cancer occurs when cancer cells form tumors in the tissue of the liver.
Surgery is the main treatment option for liver cancers. The goal of surgery is to remove as much of the tumor as possible. Patients who have complete removal of tumors have a good chance for cure.
Chemotherapy may be used to shrink the tumor before surgery or stop or slow the growth of cancer cells after surgery. Survival of liver cancer depends on whether surgery can remove the tumor and whether the cancer has spread outside the liver.
Signs and symptoms of liver cancer may depend on the size of the tumor and if it has spread outside the liver. Symptoms of liver cancer include:
Hepatoblastoma can be associated with signs of early puberty (precocious puberty) due to hormones secreted by the tumor.
Doctors use several types of tests to evaluate liver tumors and make a diagnosis. These tests include:
Doctors often classify liver tumors based on where the cancer is before the patient has treatment. This system is called pretreatment extent of disease (PRETEXT). PRETEXT groups (I, II, III, IV) depend on which parts of the liver have cancer. The higher the group, the more sections of the liver have tumor.
|PRETEXT Group||Amount of the liver involved|
|PRETEXT Group I
||One section of the liver is involved.|
|PRETEXT Group II||One or two sections of the liver are involved.|
|PRETEXT Group III||Two or three sections of the liver are involved.|
|PRETEXT Group IV
||All four sections of the liver are involved.|
Surgery is the main treatment option for liver cancers. Patients who have complete removal of tumors have a good chance for cure.
Patients who have had a liver transplant need lifelong immunosuppression medication. These drugs keep the body from attacking or rejecting the new liver. Because these medicines act to lower the body’s natural defenses, patients may have an increased risk for infection. However, many people live normal, healthy lives after an organ transplant. It is important to have regular medical care and take medicines as prescribed.
For general health and disease prevention, all cancer survivors should adopt healthy lifestyle and eating habits, as well as continue to have regular physical checkups and screenings by a primary physician at least annually. Childhood cancer survivors treated with systemic chemotherapy should be monitored for acute and late effects of therapy. Possible health concerns include hearing loss and kidney problems (cisplatin) and heart problems (anthracylcines).
Reviewed: June 2018