What Is Childhood Liver Cancer?
Liver cancer in children is a rare condition that occurs when cancerous cells develop in the liver, the large organ on the upper right side of the abdomen.
There are several types of childhood liver cancers, some more common than others. NewYork-Presbyterian’s pediatric cancer care centers can provide comprehensive, compassionate care for all forms of liver cancer in children and adolescents.
Types of Pediatric Liver Cancers
About 2 percent of childhood cancer is liver cancer. Hepatoblastoma is the most common type, affecting around 100 children a year in the United States.
Types of childhood liver cancers include:
- Hepatoblastoma. This is the most common form of liver cancer in children. Hepatoblastoma starts as cancerous cells in the tissue of the liver, typically in the right lobe, and develops into a liver tumor.
- Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). This is a rare form of liver cancer in children. Fibrolamellar HCC is more frequently found in adults and children 10 to 16 years of age.
- Childhood undifferentiated embryonal sarcoma. This is a very rare liver cancer in children. It typically develops in children between the ages of 5 and 10 years old and in young adults. This type of liver cancer can often spread throughout the liver and to the lungs.
Signs & Symptoms of Childhood Liver Cancer
Pediatric liver cancer symptoms can develop over time. Sometimes, the condition goes undetected until a liver tumor grows large enough to produce symptoms or be felt during a child’s routine checkup.
Liver cancer symptoms in toddlers and young children can include:
- Swelling in the abdomen
- A lump in the belly
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Signs of jaundice, a yellowing in the color of the eyes or skin
Causes and Risk Factors of Liver Cancer in Children
While there are no known causes as to why some children develop liver cancer, there are risk factors and conditions that can raise the chances of developing the condition.
Risk factors for childhood liver cancer include:
- Aicardi syndrome, a rare disorder typically affecting females in which the tissue connecting the left and right halves of the brain is missing or underdeveloped, causing seizures
- Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, a growth disorder that can cause a range of signs and symptoms, including a large body size as a newborn, taller-than-average height in childhood, abdominal wall defects, large abdominal organs, a large tongue, and low blood sugar
- Hemihyperplasia, a condition in which one side of the body is larger than the other
- Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), which occurs when hundreds of polyps develop in the colon
- Glycogen storage disease, a group of disorders in which stored glycogen cannot be metabolized into glucose to supply energy to the body and maintain steady blood sugar
- Low birth weight/premature birth
- Simpson-Golabi-Behmel syndrome, which can cause rare forms of kidney cancer, including Wilms tumor and neuroblastoma
- Certain genetic disorders, such as trisomy 18
Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Childhood Liver Cancer Care
NewYork-Presbyterian offers expert care for pediatric liver cancer. Our world-renowned doctors and specialists will tailor a treatment plan specific to your child, including access to clinical trials with new therapies. Our cancer center is one of the few performing cutting-edge research and precision medicine to target patients’ liver tumors.
Our pediatric cancer teams are here to help you and your child. Reach out to NewYork-Presbyterian for an appointment today.