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Childhood Liver Cancer Treatment

General Information About Childhood Liver Cancer

Childhood liver cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the liver.

The liver is one of the largest organs in the body. It has four lobes and fills the upper right side of the abdomen inside the rib cage. The liver has many important functions, including:


Anatomy of the  liver. The liver is in the upper abdomen near the stomach, intestines, gallbladder, and pancreas. The liver has four lobes. Two lobes are on the front and two small lobes (not shown) are on the back of the liver.
Anatomy of the liver. The liver is in the upper abdomen near the stomach, intestines, gallbladder, and pancreas. The liver has four lobes. Two lobes are on the front and two small lobes (not shown) are on the back of the liver.

Liver cancer is rare in children and adolescents (teenagers). There are two main types of childhood liver cancer:

The treatment of two less common types of childhood liver cancer is also discussed in this summary:

This summary refers to the treatment of primary liver cancer (cancer that begins in the liver). Treatment of metastatic liver cancer, which is cancer that begins in other parts of the body and spreads to the liver, is not discussed in this summary. Primary liver cancer can occur in both adults and children. Treatment for children, however, is different than treatment for adults. (See the PDQ summary on Adult Primary Liver Cancer Treatment for more information.)

Certain diseases and disorders can increase the risk of developing childhood liver cancer.

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor. Risk factors for hepatoblastoma include the following:

Risk factors for hepatocellular carcinoma include the following:

Possible signs of childhood liver cancer include a lump or pain in the abdomen.

Symptoms are more common after the tumor becomes large. Other conditions can cause the same symptoms. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:

Tests that examine the liver and the blood are used to detect (find) and diagnose childhood liver cancer.

The following tests and procedures may be used:

Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:

Prognosis may also depend on:

Childhood liver cancer may be cured if the tumor is small and can be completely removed by surgery. Complete removal is possible more often for hepatoblastoma than for hepatocellular carcinoma.