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Diagnosing Liver Cancer in Children

If a child has possible symptoms of liver cancer, the doctor may do a physical exam and ask about the child's personal and family medical history. The doctor may also recommend additional tests and procedures.
The exams and tests used in diagnosing liver cancer in children may include the following:
  • Serum tumor marker test
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Abdominal x-ray
  • Ultrasound
  • CT (computed tomography) scan
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan
  • Biopsy.

Staging Liver Cancer in Children

If a diagnosis of childhood liver cancer is made, the doctor needs to know the stage of liver cancer (the extent of the disease) to plan the best childhood liver cancer treatment. Staging is an attempt to find out the size of the tumor, whether the disease has spread, and, if so, to what parts of the body. The information gathered from the staging process helps determine the most appropriate treatment plan.
There are two staging systems for liver cancer in children:
  • Postsurgical (after surgery) staging: The stage is based on the amount of tumor that remains after the patient has had surgery to look at or remove the tumor. Postsurgical staging is used for most cases of liver cancer in children.
  • Presurgical (before surgery) staging: The stage is based on where the tumor has spread within the four parts (quadrants) of the liver, as shown by imaging procedures, such as MRI or CT. This staging system, called PRETEXT, may be used for childhood hepatoblastoma.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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