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Cancer Health Center

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Childhood Liver Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - 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. Three of the many important functions of the liver are:

  • To filter harmful substances from the blood so they can be passed from the body in stools and urine.
  • To make bile to help digest fats from food.
  • To store glycogen (sugar), which the body uses for energy.

cdr0000659745.jpg
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:

  • Hepatoblastoma: A type of liver cancer that usually does not spread outside the liver. This type usually affects children younger than 3 years of age.
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma: A type of liver cancer that often spreads to other places in the body. This type usually affects older children and teenagers.

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

  • Undifferentiated embryonal sarcoma of the liver (UESL) is the third most common liver cancer in children and adolescents. The tumor often spreads all through the liver and/or to the lungs. It usually occurs in children between 5 and 10 years of age.
  • Infantile choriocarcinoma of the liver is a very rare tumor that starts in the placenta and spreads to the fetus. The tumor is usually found during the first few months of life. Also, the mother of the child may be diagnosed with choriocarcinoma, which is a type of gestational trophoblastic disease and requires treatment. See the Gestational Trophoblastic Disease Treatment summary for information on the treatment of choriocarcinoma in women.

Epithelioid hemangioendothelioma is a rare cancer of the blood vessels that occurs in the liver and other organs. See the Epithelioid hemangioendothelioma section in the PDQ summary on Childhood Soft Tissue Sarcoma Treatment for more information.

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