Hepatoblastoma is a rare cancer originating in liver cells of mostly children, effecting kids from infancy until 5 years of age. The liver is the one of the largest organs of the body and is responsible for filtering blood by transforming the food we eat into vital proteins for the body. Hepatoblastoma usually originate in the right lobe of the liver and can easily metastasize towards the lungs and abdomen as the most common of places. Hepatoblastomas emanate from immature liver cells that have morphological features but act as a normal cell. Consequently, they destroy the surrounding tissues of the liver by retaining all oxygen and nutrients needed to properly filtrate the blood in the body. Cirrhosis of the liver is not related to this carcinoma of the liver.
The direct causes for hepatoblastomas are not exactly known, but with all pediatric cancers, hepatoblastomas are at increased risks in children who have genetic markers for disorders such as Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome(BWS) and hemihypertrophy, hepatitis B infection at birth, familial adenomatous polypsis. Children are usually asymptomatic at diagnosis and about 40% of cases are usually discovered at high stage level by the time of initial diagnosis, many of which have already demonstrated signs of metastasis of the disease. Some of the common signs for hepatblastomas are: weight loss, swollen abdomen, abdominal pain, jaundice, skin itching, anemia.
Aside from a complete diagnostic and physical examination of the child are made, additional procedures may include imaging studies, a complete liver function levels as well as imaging exams such at CTs or MRIs. After a pathological diagnosis of the liver is made, specific treatment choice for the patient will be based on varying factors such as the child’s age, stage of the disease and tolerance for specific chemotherapeutic drugs which may not be tolerated by certain patients.
First line of treatment for hepatoblastomas in children is a resection of the affected area. Fortunately livers are known to regenerate themselves, allow for sometimes a complete recovery. Less fortunate circumstances include late detection and metastases of the disease, leading to more complicated measures of treatment such as antibiotics, chemotherapy and even a liver transplantation in case of irreversible damage. Depending on the stage in which the disease was diagnosed and success for surgical removal and good tolerance to the chemotherapy agents, a child’s prognosis for survival can vary between children and their genetic make and social backgrounds. A successful prognosis for survival for children diagnosed with hepatoblastoma will very much depend on cooperative participation and care of a team of multidisciplinary professionals, as well as the child’s response to the treatment and varies greatly between child to child.