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Cancer

Child Liver Tumor - Rare/What is it?

02/25/2011

Question:

My son was seen at a children’s hospital for stomach pain. A right lobe liver tumor was found on ultrasound. After CT, SPECT scan and biopsy they were unable to make a diagnosis. We were referred to another children’s hospital. They also were unable to make a diagnosis. They want to do a resection on the tumor for chances it could turn malignant although no malignant cells have been found. Biopsy contained no healthy or malignant cells, only fibrous scar like tissue. The tumor was very difficult to biopsy, “hard as a rock” Dr. said. He also developed a few months prior several autoimmune skin conditions. Nothing’s been connected, no answers. Is this unheard of? How do they not know what the tumor is? Is my sons tumor that rare?

Answer:

Liver tumors in children are uncommon but not unheard of. The most common liver tumors are called hepatoblastomas and the tumor described most likely is not a hepatoblastoma. The tumor described produces a diagnostic dilemna which for often it is difficult to determine whether it is malignant (cancer) or benign.

The approach that is described is not unusual and commonly taken when it is not clear about whether the tumor is malignant of benign. If the tumor is removable by surgery and it very likely to be in the right lobe, the entire tumor can be examined by the pathologist and a determination of whether the tumor is cancerous or not and whether a simple surgery or chemotherapy may be indicated. Whether the tumor is benign or cancerous, the liver has capacity to regenerate or regrow to its normal size after removal of the tumor with no long term ill effects on the child's health.

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Response by:

James E Heubi, MD James E Heubi, MD
Professor and Associate Chair of Pediatrics
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati