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Treatment Option Overview

Key Points for This Section 


There are different types of treatment for patients with childhood liver cancer.
Children with liver cancer should have their treatment planned by a team of doctors with expertise in treating this rare childhood cancer.
Three types of standard treatment are used:
Surgery
Chemotherapy
Radiation therapy
Other types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.
 





There are different types of treatment for patients with childhood liver cancer.

Different types of treatments are available for children with liver cancer. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment.

Because cancer in children is rare, a clinical trial should be considered for all children who have liver cancer. Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Cancer.gov Web site. Choosing the most appropriate cancer treatment is a decision that ideally involves the patient, family, and health care team.

Children with liver cancer should have their treatment planned by a team of doctors with expertise in treating this rare childhood cancer.

Your child’s treatment will be overseen by a pediatric oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating children with cancer. The pediatric oncologist may refer you to other pediatric doctors who specialize in certain areas of medicine and who have experience and expertise in treating children who have liver cancer. It is especially important to have a pediatric surgeon with experience in liver surgery. Other specialists may include the following:

Radiation oncologist.
Pediatric nurse specialist.
Rehabilitation specialist.
Psychologist.
Social worker.
Three types of standard treatment are used:

Surgery

When possible, the cancer is removed by surgery.

Partial hepatectomy: Removal of the part of the liver where cancer is found. The part removed may be a wedge of tissue, an entire lobe, or a larger part of the liver, along with a small amount of normal tissue around it.
Total hepatectomy and liver transplant: Removal of the entire liver and replacement with a healthy liver from a donor. A liver transplant may be possible when cancer has not spread beyond the liver and a donated liver can be found. If the patient has to wait for a donated liver, other treatment is given as needed.
Resection of metastases: Surgery to remove cancer that has spread outside of the liver, such as to nearby tissues, the lungs, or the brain.
Chemotherapy or radiation therapy is sometimes given before surgery, to shrink the tumor and make it easier to remove. This is called neoadjuvant therapy. Even if the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the surgery, some patients may be given chemotherapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Treatment given after the surgery, to increase the chances of a cure, is called adjuvant therapy.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping the cells from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the spinal column, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy).

Chemoembolization of the hepatic artery (the main artery that supplies blood to the liver) is a type of regional chemotherapy used to treat childhood liver cancer. The anticancer drug is injected into the hepatic artery through a catheter (thin tube). The drug is mixed with a substance that blocks the artery, cutting off blood flow to the tumor. Most of the anticancer drug is trapped near the tumor and only a small amount of the drug reaches other parts of the body. The blockage may be temporary or permanent, depending on the substance used to block the artery. The tumor is prevented from getting the oxygen and nutrients it needs to grow. The liver continues to receive blood from the hepatic portal vein, which carries blood from the stomach and intestine.

Treatment using more than one anticancer drug is called combination chemotherapy. The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

Other types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.

Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Cancer.gov Web site.

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/childliver/Patient/page4
 

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