Doctors don't know the exact cause of hepatocellular carcinoma. Children who have
viral infections or other conditions that cause liver inflammation (swelling and irritation),
like viral hepatitis,
get HCC more often than other children.
Other less common causes or triggers include:
hereditary tyrosinemia (when a protein called tyrosine builds up in the body)
hereditary hemochromatosis (when excess iron is stored in the liver)
progressive hepatic cholestasis (when the flow of bile from the liver is reduced)
How Is Hepatocellular Carcinoma Diagnosed?
When a child has hepatocellular carcinoma, the doctor will do an exam. Tests done
blood tests, including liver
and kidney function tests and an alpha fetoprotein (AFP) test (liver damage and some
cancers can raise the level of this protein in the blood)
a biopsy: removing
a piece of tumor tissue for examination or testing
How Is Hepatocellular Carcinoma Treated?
Doctors usually treat hepatocellular carcinoma with a combination of surgery and
possible, children with cancer should go to a medical center specializing in the treatment
of pediatric cancers.
Treatment depends on:
the child's age
the size of the tumor
whether there is one or many tumors in the liver
whether the cancer has spread from the liver
Surgery is the most important part of treatment, but many HCC
tumors cannot be removed easily. A liver
transplant may be considered because the whole liver needs to be removed to get
the entire tumor out.
Chemotherapy is often used but is not very effective in shrinking
Radioembolization (or Y90) is a type of therapy that delivers
high-dose radiation directly to the liver tumor through the bloodstream. The radiologist
inserts a tiny catheter (plastic tube) in the groin and passes it to the artery closest
to the tumor. This procedure protects much of the normal liver tissue from the effects
Y90 can be used as primary therapy in liver tumors that don't respond well to chemotherapy.
It's also used when the tumors come back or don't shrink enough for surgery.
Transarterial radioembolization (TARE), which delivers a high
dose of radiation therapy directly into the tumor(s).
Transarterial chemoembolization (TACE), which sends chemotherapy
particles directly to the tumor.
Tumor ablation, which is when doctors detroy tumors by using small
needles to heat or cool them.
Who Treats Hepatocellular Carcinoma?
HCC is treated by a health care team, including specialists in:
gastroenterology (digestive tract) and hepatology (liver)
pathology (diagnosing diseases by examining body tissues, fluids and organs)
genetics (genetic counseling and testing)
radiology (medical imaging)
Hepatocellular carcinoma is challenging to treat, even before it spreads beyond
the liver. Clinical trials are underway to help find better treatments in children
After treatment, a child will have frequent checkups with the care team especially
because there is a possibility that the cancer may return.
Having a child being treated for cancer can feel overwhelming for any family. But
you're not alone. To find support, talk to your child's doctor or a hospital social
worker. Many resources are available to help you get through this difficult time.
You also can find information and support online at: