Treatment and care of children with cancer is usually provided by a team of health professionals called a multidisciplinary team. Members of this team are specialists in children’s cancers – they understand the differences between children’s cancer and adult cancer, and each team member brings different skills in managing care to meet the needs of both you and your child.
The team will be led by a childhood cancer specialist (paediatric oncologist). Other members of the team depend on the age of your child and their type of disease, and may change over time as your child’s needs change. A list of team members who might make up the multidisciplinary team can be found in The treatment team.
Treatment for liver tumours depends on the age of your child, the stage of the disease, the biological features of the cancer and other factors identified during diagnosis. Treatment will be tailored to your child’s particular situation, and may involve one or more of the following (see How is cancer treated for more detail).
Your child is likely to have surgery to remove all or part of their liver. If their entire liver is removed, they will also need a liver transplant.
Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer medicines to destroy cancer cells. It is often given as a combination of medicines to try to prevent the cancer cells from becoming resistant to just one or two medicines.
Chemotherapy medicines are given together in courses, often over a few days. Once the body has recovered from the side effects, the next course is given. Most children receive multiple courses of chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy may be used:
- before surgery (to shrink the tumour and make it easier to remove)
- after surgery (to destroy any remaining cancer cells).
Liver cancer can also be treated using a procedure called chemoembolisation of the hepatic artery. This is where chemotherapy medicines are injected through a catheter into an artery that supplies blood to the liver, and the artery is then blocked off. This keeps the chemotherapy close to the liver, which means that there may be fewer side effects, and also stops the blood supply to the tumour to prevent it from growing.
Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to destroy cancer cells or stop them from growing. Your child may have radiation therapy to treat liver tumours.
A procedure called radioembolisation of the hepatic artery can also be used to treat liver tumours. This is where the radiation is attached to tiny beads that are injected into an artery that supplies blood to the liver, and the artery is then blocked off. This keeps the radiation close to the liver, which means that there may be fewer side effects, and also stops the blood supply to the tumour to prevent it from growing.
Radiation therapy can have long-term side effects in children. If the potential benefits outweigh the risks and radiation therapy is included in your child’s treatment, special care will be taken to reduce these risks.