Liver Tumors

Although it is unknown exactly how cancers of the liver develop, it is believed to begin during the growth of the liver cells. If a mistake occurs during the growth of these cells, the cells begin to multiply at an abnormally fast rate, causing a tumor. The faulty cells are not regulated by the liver as are the healthy cells. Tumors originating in the liver account for 1 to 2 percent of all childhood cancers.

There are two kinds of liver carcinoma (cancerous tumors):

  • Hepatoblastoma is the most common type of liver cancer in children, and typically occurs in infants through about three years of age. This type of tumor occasionally spreads to other parts of the body, most commonly the lung.
  • Hepatocellular is less common and occurs in older children typically. Hepatocellular cancer often spreads to other parts of the body.

Many factors affect recovery rate and treatment options:

  • Size and removal of tumor
    Tumors that can be completely removed (resected) by a surgical treatment have a higher recovery rate. Chemotherapy may also be used to shrink the tumor for removal or to reach cancerous cells in other parts of the body. Generally, Wilms Tumors are more contained than other kinds of kidney tumors.
  • Stage of tumor
    As with many cancers, Stage I and II tumors are more easily cured. The earlier the tumor is detected, the better chance for removal and treatment.
  • Type of tumor
    Hepatoblastoma and hepatocellular cancers will have differing treatment plans.
  • Production of AFP (alpha-fetoprotein)
    Alpha-fetoprotein, or AFP, is a chemical produced by liver tumors. A rapid decrease in AFP levels after chemotherapy indicates a response to treatment. The AFP levels can then be followed after treatment to monitor a recurrence of the tumor.