Pediatric Liver (Hepatic) Tumors


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What are Pediatric Liver (Hepatic) Tumors?

Hepatic (liver) cancer is rare in children. The most common mass in younger children is hepatoblastoma. Older adolescents are more likely to be diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma, which more readily metastasizes (spreads to other parts of the body).

What are the different types of Pediatric Liver (Hepatic) Tumors?

Other liver tumors children can have are:

Mesenchymal hamartomas (usually benign)


Hepatocellular carcinomas

How are Pediatric Liver (Hepatic) Tumors diagnosed?

Diagnosing liver cancer includes distinguishing them from other non-malignant masses such as hemangiomas, which are the most common benign liver mass. Hemangiomas are most often found in infants less than 6 months old.

  • Mesenchymal hamartomas are rare benign masses usually found in children under 2 years old.
  • Hepatoblastoma, although malignant, usually does not spread beyond the liver. About 90% of hepatic malignancies in children age 4 or younger are hepatoblastomas. The tumor is associated with a number of genetic conditions, including:
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma has a lower 5-year survival rate than that for hepatoblastoma. The carcinoma is associated with some familial syndromes and in some regions with a high incidence of Hepatitis B, which children acquire perinatally.

Other types of liver malignancies are even rarer:

  • Undifferentiated embryonal sarcoma of the liver, which usually occurs in children between age 5 and 10 years.
  • Infantile choriocarcinoma of the liver, which originates in the placenta and appears in a young infant’s liver.
  • Epithelioid hemangioendothelioma, a rare vascular cancer.


  • Children with a liver malignancy usually have a painless mass or swelling in the abdomen. Some children have pain, nausea, vomiting and unexplained weight loss.
  • Serum tumor markers can identify elevated beta-human chorionic gonadotropic or alpha-fetoprotein levels.
  • Liver function tests (LFT) and blood chemistry studies can indicate liver disease.
  • Imaging in children usually begins with ultrasonography and may be followed by computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as necessary.
  • A biopsy confirms diagnosis and immunohistochemistry may be used to determine genetic causes of liver tumors.

How are Pediatric Liver (Hepatic) Tumors treated?

Because liver cancers are so rare in pediatric patients and often associated with genetic syndromes, the tumors should be managed by a multidisciplinary team of pediatric specialists.


Surgery options range from removal of tumors to total hepatectomy and liver transplant.


Children also may need chemotherapy and radiation therapy, depending on the stage and type of liver tumor.

We will continue to work with patients’ families and community physicians after care to assist you with follow-up and surveillance for recurrence or a second cancer.

Children’s Health is staffed by expert and experienced specialists who are faculty at UT Southwestern Medical Center. The Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders is a world-class and nationally recognized leader in pediatric cancer research. Our pediatric oncologists, pediatric surgeons and other specialists can manage these rare tumors.

Pediatric Liver (Hepatic) Tumors Doctors and Providers