What is hepatoblastoma?

  • Hepatoblastoma is a rare type of childhood cancer that occurs in the liver.
  • The primary functions of the liver include filtering and storing blood, processing the food we eat and making vital proteins for the body to use.
  • Hepatoblastoma traditionally affects children from infancy to about age 5; most cases appear during the first 18 months of life.

What causes hepatoblastoma in children?

Although the exact cause of hepatoblastoma is unknown, children who have been born prematurely, are of low birth weight, or who have genetic condition (including but not limited to hemihypertrophy syndromes, Beckwith Weidemann, Trisomy 18, and germline APC gene mutations) are at increased risk of developing hepatoblastoma.

What are the symptoms of hepatoblastoma in children?

Different children may experience symptoms differently, and symptoms may vary depending on the size of the tumor and whether the tumor has spread.

Your child's symptoms may include:

  • a large abdominal mass, or swollen abdomen
  • weight loss, decreased appetite
  • abdominal pain
  • vomiting
  • jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)
  • fever
  • itching skin
  • anemia (pale skin and lips from a decreased number of red blood cells)
  • back pain from compression of the tumor

How we care for hepatoblastoma

Children with hepatoblastoma are treated in the Liver Tumor Center at the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. We have some of the most experienced pediatric liver cancer oncologists and surgeons in the world, as well as internationally recognized pediatric subspecialists who use sophisticated technology and therapies to maximize outcomes for our patients.