It is unusual for children to get liver cancer and usually children do not get the same kind of liver cancer as adults. The most common form of liver cancer in children is called hepatoblastoma and especially affects children younger than three years.
The vast majority of children who get liver cancer get rid of the disease.
Symptoms of liver cancer in children
Cancer tumors of the liver rarely produce clear symptoms. One symptom may be that the child has a tense and hard stomach. The child may also have diffuse symptoms such as fatigue and poor appetite for an extended period of time.
The child may have an X-ray examination or a magnetic camera examination to see if there is a cancerous tumor. It is common for the doctor to also want to take a tissue sample, a biopsy, to investigate the suspected tumor more closely. The doctor also checks for blood samples for alpha-fetoprotein that may be elevated in hepatoblastoma.
Treatment for liver cancer in children
Most types of liver cancer can be operated on if the disease is detected early. The most common is that the entire cancerous tumor in the liver is removed along with some of the healthy liver around. The tumor can be difficult to remove completely if it sits where the large blood vessels enter, or at the gallbladder and bile ducts. Most often, the child usually receives treatment with cytostatic drugs to shrink the cancer tumor before it is removed. It is also common for the child to receive some cures with cytostatics after surgery.
The liver grows in children even though a large part has been removed. After a few years, the liver has grown out and is functioning as usual again.
All children may go on post-check-ups quite often for several years, partly to find out if the disease is coming back, and partly to see how the child develops and the body functions after treatment. Hearing, kidney and heart function can be affected. It depends on what treatment the child has received.