Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

What is Childhood Hepatoblastoma?

Childhood liver cancer is a rare disease in which cancer cells are found in the tissues of a child’s liver. The liver is the largest organ in the body and it is found behind the ribs on the right side of the abdomen. The liver removes harmful material from the blood and also produces enzymes and bile that aid in the digestive system. The liver receives its blood supply from two vessels – most coming from the hepatic portal vein, and the rest from the hepatic artery. Cancer occurs as the result of abnormal cell growth within the liver.

Hepatoblastoma is the most common type of childhood liver cancer.

Risk Factors

There are no strong indicators of what may cause childhood liver cancers. However, current research suggests the following:

  • Family history. There may be a link between families who carry a gene related to a certain type of colon cancer and children who develop hepatoblastoma.
  • Genetic syndromes. Children with genetic syndromes such as Beckwith-Weidemann syndrome, hemihypertrophy and familial adenomatous plyposis amy have an increased risk of developing this disease.
  • Race. Occurs 4-5 times more often in white children than in African-American children.
  • Age. Occurs usually in children under age 5, but mostly occurs in children under age two.
  • Prenatal exposure. There is some evidence linking maternal exposure to metals, paints, and oil products to the development of this disease in some children.

Common Symptoms

  • Painless mass or swelling in the abdomen
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Failure to thrive
  • Jaundice (rare)

These symptoms can be indicative of cancer or other medical conditions. If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, your child should see his/her doctor.

Diagnosing Hepatoblastoma

If symptoms are present, your child's doctor will perform a complete physical exam and will prescribe additional tests to find the cause of the symptoms. Tests may include blood tests, chest x-ray, CT (or CAT) scan, MRI, ultrasound, and/or biopsy.

If cancer is diagnosed, additional tests will be diagnosed to determine the type and stage (progress) of the disease.

Treatment Options

Your child's doctor will work with you and your child to determine the best treatment plan. Treatment will be determined by the type and stage of the disease, as well as your child's age and general health. Current treatment options for hepatoblastoma include surgery and chemotherapy.

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Pediatric Hematology/
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Golisano Children's Hospital
601 Elmwood Avenue
Rochester, NY 14642
Phone: (585) 275-2981
Fax: (585) 273-1039

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