The survival rate of childhood liver cancer is over 80% if the tumor is located only in the liver and can be removed through surgery.
The survival rate of childhood liver cancer depends on several factors such as the type of cancer, cancer grade (microscopic appearance of tumor cells), person’s general health, and extent or spread of the tumor.
- If the tumor is located only in the liver and can be removed entirely with surgery after chemotherapy, the survival rate is more than 80 percent.
- If the tumor encompasses the entire liver or has spread beyond the liver, the survival rate can be anywhere between 20 and 70 percent at three to five years after diagnosis.
Is liver cancer curable in kids?
Childhood liver cancer is curable in kids only if it is small and can be removed entirely by surgery. Cure rates of childhood liver cancer are much higher than those of adult liver cancer.
There are two main types of childhood liver cancer, namely, hepatoblastoma and hepatocellular carcinoma. Hepatoblastoma can be removed completely more often than hepatocellular carcinoma and is curable in more than half of the children.
The treatment of childhood liver cancer depends on:
- The type of cancer (hepatoblastoma or hepatocellular carcinoma)
- Stage of cancer
- Your child’s age
- Your child’s overall health
What is the treatment for childhood liver cancer?
The treatment of liver cancer includes:
- Surgery to remove the tumor and part of the liver
- Surgery to remove any cancer that has spread to other organs or parts of the body
- Liver transplantation, which involves replacing the child’s cancerous liver with a donor’s healthy liver. It is not for everyone. Only some children can be eligible to receive a liver from another person.
Chemotherapy involves using drugs to kill cancer cells. The surgeon may administer chemotherapy to your child before surgery (neoadjuvant chemotherapy) to shrink liver cancer or after surgery (adjuvant chemotherapy) to kill any remaining cells. Chemotherapy can be given in any of the two ways.
- Systemic treatment: Medication is usually administered intravenously or through an artery that can kill cancer cells present not only in the liver but also anywhere else in the body.
- Direct infusion chemotherapy: Medications are injected directly into the blood vessels that supply the liver.
This therapy involves injecting a substance into the main artery that supplies the liver to stop blood flow to liver cancer, thus preventing oxygen and other nutrients from reaching the cancerous area and causing the tumor to shrink.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors and can be administered in any of the two ways.
- External radiation therapy: Radiation that comes from a machine placed outside the body is focused on the body.
- Internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy): A radiation source is implanted in the cancerous part of the liver.
Biological therapy (or biological response modifier therapy or immunotherapy) involves administering medications or substances (monoclonal antibodies) made by the body to increase or restore the body’s immunity against cancer.
After the treatment is completed, your child will be regularly evaluated through checkups that involve blood tests, X-rays, or computed tomography scans to check if cancer has come back.
Does childhood liver cancer come back?
The chances of liver cancer coming back are less if cancer is confined only to the liver. Up to 80 percent of children, whose cancer is present only in the liver, treated with liver transplantation survive longer than 20 years without cancer coming back. Cancer can recur in 16 percent of children after liver transplantation.
The odds of childhood liver cancer coming back are high in the first two years after treatment. It is rare for it to recur after two years.
The chances of recurrence of childhood liver cancer after treatment go up if it has spread outside the liver. However, removing hepatoblastoma with surgery or shrinking it with chemotherapy before liver transplantation can still cure up to half of such children.
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Medically Reviewed on 9/29/2021
Childhood Liver Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version. https://www.cancer.gov/types/liver/hp/child-liver-treatment-pdq
Pediatric Hepatoblastoma. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/986802-overview
Hepatoblastoma (Liver Cancer) in Children: Symptoms and Treatment. https://www.chp.edu/our-services/transplant/liver/education/liver-disease-states/hepatoblastoma-liver-cancer