When your child is diagnosed with cancer, it can feel overwhelming. This phase involves finding out if your child has cancer and determining the type of cancer they have. Children’s cancer can be difficult to diagnose, as many symptoms are similar to those caused by less serious conditions or injuries. This means that your child may need several tests and medical appointments before you receive confirmation that your child has cancer.

If your doctor thinks your child has a liver tumour, your child will have several tests, which may include:

  • Medical history and physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Medical imaging, such as
    • X-ray
    • Ultrasound
    • Computed tomography (CT) scan
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Biopsy, with tests for genetic changes to help find the best way to treat your child.

Our section, How is cancer diagnosed? explains these tests in more detail.



Doctors use staging to describe how much the cancer has grown. Some of the tests will help to stage the tumour (Cancer). Staging determines:

  • Where the tumour is located within the liver
  • The size of the tumour if the tumour has spread to other parts of the body

Your doctor will use this information to determine the best way to treat the disease. Staging will also give your doctor an idea of how well these treatments are likely to work (prognosis).

Treatment for children with liver tumours generally first requires chemotherapy. Surgery is performed at a later date. Surgery might include liver transplantation because of the size and location of the tumour within the liver. The decision to use liver transplantation requires very careful and accurate staging both before the start of chemotherapy and before surgery

Liver cancer staging uses medical imaging scans to see how far the cancer has spread within the liver.

Doctors then describe four stages after surgery:

  • Stage I – the cancer had not spread outside the liver. Surgery removed it fully.
  • Stage II – the cancer had not spread outside the liver. Some cancer cells remain after surgery. Doctors can see them under a microscope.
  • Stage III – surgery cannot remove the cancer. In a second option, visible cancer remains after surgery. In a third variation, the cancer has spread from the liver to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage IV – the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. These may include the lungs or brain.