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Liver tumors

In most cases liver tumors arise in the liver. Sometimes it happens that a liver tumor originated somewhere else in the body and has been metastasized to the liver. There are benign and malignant liver tumors. A malignant liver tumor is called a hepatoblastoma. As liver cells, it does not develop properly during growth into adult cells. This type of tumor only occurs in children. Benign tumors in the liver are called hamartoma or focal nodular hyperplasia.

Symptoms of this disease

Children with a liver tumor often have no symptoms for a long time. They also rarely experience pain. Usually a convex stomach shape is the first sign that something is wrong. Children can also develop jaundice, but this often only happens when the tumor is already large. Children do often have painful symptoms. This may be due to bleeding in the tumor or abdomen. It also happens that a liver tumor is discovered during a regular check at the health care center.

How do we make the diagnosis?

Your child will usually first receive an abdominal ultrasound to see if it is a liver tumor. This is followed by an MRI scan. We also take blood samples to examine the liver's function. We may find increased amounts of alpha fetoprotein (AFP) or bHCG. These are substances in the blood that are produced by malignant tumors. We almost always examine a piece of tissue. This is what we call a biopsy. This is done under anesthetic.

Treatment of a liver tumor

We treat children with a liver tumor in accordance with international treatment protocols. We look at the type, size, location and extent of the tumor. Treatment always consists of chemotherapy to reduce the size of the tumor and surgery to remove the tumor. If the latter is not possible, a liver transplant is necessary. This operation is carried out after consultation with the doctors of the Princess Máxima Center in the children's liver transplantation center at the University Medical Center in Groningen.