The liver is one of the largest organs in the human body, and it performs various crucial functions to keep the body free of toxins and harmful substances and help you digest food.
Benign (non-cancerous) liver tumors are common. They don’t pose a serious health risk, and don’t spread to other parts of the body. In many cases, they aren’t even diagnosed – because they cause no symptoms!
The problems arise when tumors in the liver are malignant (cancerous). The most common type of malignant liver tumor, accounting for about 75% of all liver cancers, is called hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). This occurs most often in patients with chronic liver diseases such as cirrhosis caused by hepatitis B or C infections.
One of the rarest forms of liver cancer is hepatoblastoma, which is nearly always found in children, especially those 3-years old and younger. This type of malignant tumor is caused by genetic/inherited conditions that aren’t fully understood. Though it requires immediate care, thankfully this cancer type rarely spreads to other areas of the body.
At SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, our team of experts is passionate about helping children with liver conditions live long, healthy lives and is committed to offering the latest advancements in care! If your child has been diagnosed with pediatric liver tumors, call us at 314-268-4010 to schedule an appointment to learn how we can help today.
Symptoms of Pediatric Liver Tumors
The signs of liver tumors and/or cancer vary depending on the individual and may come on quite suddenly. During the early stages of the disease, many patients will show few (if any) symptoms.
- Fatigue, muscle weakness
- Nausea, vomiting and poor appetite
- Abdominal discomfort
- Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
- White, chalky stools
- Bruising or bleeding easily
Babies with a very low birth weight seem to be at a higher risk for hepatoblastoma. Some genetic health conditions can also increase their risk, including:
- Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome
- Familial adenomatous polyposis
- Glycogen storage diseases
- Aicardi syndrome
Diagnosis of Tumors in the Liver
There are many different tests or procedures that may be used to diagnose liver tumors, starting with physical examination. Blood tests to measure liver function and imaging tests (such as CT and MRI) may also be used. Your doctor may remove a small tissue sample (liver biopsy) so that he or she can examine your child’s liver cells more closely.
Treating Liver Tumors in Children
There are numerous treatment options for tumors in the liver, depending on their cause and how advanced they are. These could include a wide range of techniques to either remove cancer cells or otherwise kill or disable them.
- Ablation (using extreme heat or cold temperatures)
- Radiation Therapy
- Targeted drugs
Avoiding substances known to cause liver damage, as well as nutrition management to ensure children get the proper nutrients, are other essential steps for people with this condition.
Some cases of liver tumors may best be treated by liver transplantation. Fortunately, this group of patients has a favorable long-term outlook as well.
We understand that learning your child has liver tumors or any chronic medical condition can be a very stressful time for your family! That’s why our SLUCare Physician Group surgeons at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital are here to support you every step of the way. Call us today at 314-268-4010 to schedule an appointment or to request a second opinion.