Pediatric liver cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in children. The most common symptom is a lump or swelling in the stomach area.
Understanding the symptoms of liver cancer in children can help with identifying the condition as early as possible. A doctor will be able to confirm the diagnosis and advise on a suitable treatment plan.
Read on to learn more about the symptoms of pediatric liver cancer and the steps involved in diagnosis.
The most common symptom of pediatric liver cancer is an abdominal mass or swelling. Sometimes, a child may also feel pain or discomfort around this area.
A lump in the abdomen that is due to liver cancer can be a symptom of either hepatoblastoma or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). These are the two most common types of liver cancer in children.
When other symptoms of pediatric liver cancer occur, they can include:
It is important to note that the presence of these symptoms does not necessarily indicate liver cancer. They may also arise due to other conditions.
If any of these symptoms persist or cause concern, it is best for a person to contact a doctor for evaluation and diagnosis.
Diagnosing pediatric liver cancer typically involves a
Medical history and physical examination
The doctor will typically begin by reviewing the child’s medical history, including any symptoms or signs that may suggest liver cancer.
They will also perform a thorough physical examination to look for any problems in the liver or other parts of the body.
A doctor may perform blood tests to evaluate liver function and measure levels of certain tumor markers, such as a protein called alpha-fetoprotein.
A doctor may order various imaging tests to visualize the liver and detect any tumors. These may include:
A biopsy is often necessary to confirm the diagnosis of liver cancer. It involves the removal of a small sample of liver tissue for examination.
If a child receives a diagnosis of liver cancer, a doctor may run further tests to determine the stage of the cancer and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.
Surgery is the main treatment for pediatric liver cancer. Types of surgery
- Partial hepatectomy: This involves removing part of the liver.
- Total hepatectomy and liver transplant: Surgeons remove the entire liver and replace it with one from a donor.
- Resection of metastases: This involves removing cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
Other treatments for liver cancer in children can include:
A doctor can advise on which treatments they recommend and answer any questions a parent or caregiver may have.
Below are answers to some commonly asked questions about pediatric liver cancer.
Is liver cancer common in children?
Liver cancer in children is relatively rare compared with other types of cancer. It accounts for approximately 1% of all childhood cancers.
What causes liver cancer in a child?
Researchers do not yet fully understand the exact causes of liver cancer in children. However, certain risk factors are associated with pediatric liver cancer,
Can a child survive liver cancer?
The outlook for a child with pediatric liver cancer varies depending on several factors, including the stage of the cancer, the child’s overall health, and their response to treatment.
Hepatoblastoma has a survival rate of approximately 80% if the tumor is isolated in the liver. In cases where there are multiple tumors across the liver or the cancer has spread, the survival rate 3–5 years after diagnosis is 20–70%.
HCC has a lower survival rate than hepatoblastoma, with a 5-year survival rate of less than 30%. However, it is important to note that each case is unique, and outlooks can vary.
The main symptom of pediatric liver cancer is a lump or swelling in the abdomen. Other symptoms can include abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, weight loss, and a decrease in appetite.
Doctors can recommend various treatments for liver cancer in children. The primary treatment is surgery. Other options include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, ablation therapy, and targeted therapy.
It is best to contact a doctor as soon as a child displays symptoms of pediatric liver cancer. There are many possible causes of symptoms such as abdominal pain and nausea, and it is important to receive an accurate diagnosis.