Hepatoblastoma an Uncommon Childhood Illness


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What Is Hepatoblastoma?

Hepatoblastoma is an uncommon children’s liver disease also known as liver neoplasm. This disease is a very rare cancerous tumor than generally forms in the liver and can travel elsewhere. The disease can start on a child from infancy to 3 years old. Prognosis and long term survival can vary on a child depending on how early the disease is diagnosed and what treatment plans are considered.

Chemotherapy is the most common form of treatment however there are also; surgery, liver transplant, supportive care, and continuous follow-up care.  Hepatocellular carcinoma or HCC is another liver cancer developed in children between ages 10-16 years.

The Function of the Liver

What is the function of a liver and why is it important to catch this disease early? The primary function is detoxifying the liver of toxic chemicals. Its other functions include protein synthesis and production of biochemicals that are necessary for digestion.

There is no way the body can function without a liver, and in most cases liver transplants can lead to long term health complications. This organ has a number of functions in the body which include hormonal production of the body, protein synthesis, and decomposition of red blood cells.


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What are the symptoms of Hepatoblastoma?

Symptoms may depend on the size of the tumor. Typically infections, fevers abdominal pain, weight loss, back pain, and skin rashes or sores may appear on a child. If any of these symptoms occur, please consult your child’s primary care physician.

Hepatoblastoma can typically be diagnosed through X-rays, MRI’s, Cat scans, ultra-sounds, bone scans, or a alpha-fetoprotein test. Eckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, hemi hypertrophy, and familial adenomatous polyposis increase the risk of developing Hepatoblastoma in young children.

Also defects in metabolism or storage glycogen disease I may also increase a child’s risk. Children expose to people with hepatitis B or those who have billary atresia at an early age can be prone to Hepatoblastoma.

Stages of Hepatoblastoma

There are also different stages of Hepatoblastoma. It goes through stages I-IV and the recurrent stage. These stages determine how much the tumor of the liver has developed and whether or not it can be treated through various treatment plans. Once stage IV is reached, the tumor typically cannot be removed and the malignant cells are found in the lymph nodes.

The disease can be fatal and this stage or incurable.  There are factors that affect the prognosis of the disease. That includes complete removal, presence of fetal histology, tumor stage, and the alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) production.

Treatment of Hepatoblastoma

The treatment plans are based on several factors for the child. Typically, once the disease is detected, doctors will make a few assumptions and research the child before going into treatment. This is based on the child’s medical history, how mature the tumor is child’s age, and overall health. The extent of the disease and tolerance on medications and antibiotics or general treatment is also considered. Parent’s opinion and preference is a huge part in the decision making as well.


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Continuous care and follow-up is important for children with Hepatoblastoma. Treatment can vary from child to child. Research and new methods are still being discovered to improve extensive treatment plans for children with Hepatoblastoma.


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2 comments on “Hepatoblastoma an Uncommon Childhood Illness

  1. One things that make hepatoblastoma so hard to deal with and study is we have about 5 cases a year in the US, and 2-3 of them do not end well for the infant. If the survivors, secondary cancers and diseases are very common.

  2. I agree that the scarcity of cases makes advancing treatments for hepatoblastoma difficult, but what you say about there being a nearly 75% mortality rate doesn’t add up. The current treatments are realizing almost a 100% survival rate. In the very rare Stage IV case there is a chance the cancer will metastasize, but this is also very rare. There are some cases where the cancer has spread from the liver to other areas and has been treated effectively. Secondary diseases are not a direct relation to the caner, rather they are a side-effect of the chemotherapies, which include hearing loss and slight bone deformities. Any “disease” that may occur during treatment is due to immunosuppression, not hepatoblastoma.

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