Hepatoblastoma is a rare form of liver cancer where an uncontrolled proliferation of tissue mass chiefly occurs in the liver. This type of sarcoma generally affects children ages 1 to 3. Although a unique form of cancer, unlike other forms, hepatoblastoma usually doesn’t spread (metastasize) to other parts. of the body.
Roughly 75% to 80% of children diagnosed with hepatoblastoma are active five years after diagnosis. The survival rate further increases to 90% in case of cancer in the child was diagnosed and treated early on, usually with a combination of surgical procedures and other therapies. With passing time, several researchers and healthcare providers are developing new and improved surgical techniques to help children who are diagnosed with more advanced forms of hepatoblastoma.
Although the exact cause of Hepatoblastoma is yet unknown, recent researches show it chiefly happens when there is a change or mutation in the genetic matter or DNA of the liver cells. These mutations make the cell grow abnormally in size and number without dying. And ultimately the abnormal cells accumulate in large numbers to form a mass of tissue or tumour within the organ.
Certain causative factors increase the chances of occurrence of Hepatoblastoma. These include:
Premature Delivery: Children who are born early with a very low birth weight are most susceptible to hepatoblastoma
Gender: Hepatoblastoma is diagnosed more commonly in boys than in girls
Health Condition: Children who are diagnosed with certain disorders like Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome (a condition which makes the body and internal organs grow too much or get too big) or Hemihyperplasia ( a condition that causes one side of the child’s body to be larger than the other side) or Biliary atresia ( a condition that prevents the passage of bile into the small intestine, causing them to backflow into the liver) have a higher risk of this form of cancer
Genetic Abnormality: Children who possess a genetic condition called Familial adenomatous polyposis (a condition which causes the growth of polyps in the lining of the large intestine) or have an issue with a gene (the APC suppressor gene) that generally keeps tumours from growing have a higher Ju of hepatoblastoma
Symptoms usually differ depending on the size of the tumour and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. The common signs and symptoms may manifest a bit differently in each child depending upon their genetic disposition. These include:
- Lump (mass) in the belly that is painless to touch
- An inflated abdomen
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Itchy skin
- Sudden weight loss
- Feeling fatigued
- The appearance of enlarged veins on the belly
- Dark-coloured urine
Diagnosis And Treatment
On noticing any of the above-mentioned signs and symptoms, do consult a specialised doctor right away to commence the treatment at the earliest. The doctor usually does a thorough physical check-up followed by acknowledging the patient’s past medical history and carries out a few of the diagnostics including:
Complete Blood Count: This test is conducted to detect a child’s alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) levels as part of this test. AFP usually gets elevated if the child is suffering from liver damage or any other form of cancer
Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP): A CMP assesses the child’s blood for 14 different substances as well as for liver function to detect any other problem
Vascular Ultrasound: The test is done to check the network of blood vessels entering and leaving your child’s liver
Imaging tests: These include CT-scan, MRI-scan, Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) etc.
Biopsy: Analysing a mass of tissue that is scraped off from the affected body part to look for cancer cells and the spread of infection.
Treatment options usually depend upon the age of the child, size and stage of the tumour, and whether it has metastasized to other parts of the body. The available treatment options chiefly include:
- Liver Transplant
- Radiation therapy
- Transarterial chemoembolization (TACE)
- Tumour ablation
- Clinical Trials
- Supportive care