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Treatment Option Overview

    There are different types of treatment for patients with childhood liver cancer.

    Different types of treatments are available for children with liver cancer. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment.

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    Because cancer in children is rare, taking part in a clinical trial should be considered. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

    Children with liver cancer should have their treatment planned by a team of healthcare providers who are experts in treating this rare childhood cancer.

    Treatment will be overseen by a pediatric oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating children with cancer. The pediatric oncologist works with other healthcare providers who are experts in treating children with liver cancer and who specialize in certain areas of medicine. It is especially important to have a pediatric surgeon with experience in liver surgery. Other specialists may include the following:

    Some cancer treatments cause side effects months or years after treatment has ended.

    Side effects from cancer treatment that begin during or after treatment and continue for months or years are called late effects. Late effects of cancer treatment may include:

    • Physical problems.
    • Changes in mood, feelings, thinking, learning, or memory.
    • Second cancers (new types of cancer).

    Some late effects may be treated or controlled. It is important to talk with your child's doctors about the effects cancer treatment can have on your child. (See the PDQ summary on Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer for more information).

    Five types of standard treatment are used:

    Surgery

    When possible, the cancer is removed by surgery.

    • Cryosurgery: A treatment that uses an instrument to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue, such as carcinoma in situ. This type of treatment is also called cryotherapy. The doctor may use ultrasound to guide the instrument.
    • Partial hepatectomy: Removal of the part of the liver where cancer is found. The part removed may be a wedge of tissue, an entire lobe, or a larger part of the liver, along with a small amount of normal tissue around it.
    • Total hepatectomy and liver transplant: Removal of the entire liver and replacement with a healthy liver from a donor. A liver transplant may be possible when cancer has not spread beyond the liver and a donated liver can be found. If the patient has to wait for a donated liver, other treatment is given as needed.
    • Resection of metastases: Surgery to remove cancer that has spread outside of the liver, such as to nearby tissues, the lungs, or the brain.
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