Hepatoblastoma Cancer: 9 Facts On This Form Of Childhood Disease

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Michael Bublé’s son Noah has been diagnosed with liver cancer. According to the singer’s sister-in-law, Daniela Lopilato, the three-year-old has already started chemotherapy and the treatment is expected to last four months.


Liver cancer is very rare in kids and teens. While there are two main types – hepatoblastoma and hepatocellular carcinoma – the former is the most common among young children.

According to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, hepatoblastoma only affects two to three people in a million.

Here, we take a look at more facts about this form of childhood liver cancer.

1. Hepatoblastoma (HB) is a malignant tumour.

It results from abnormal tissue growth in the liver.

2. The cancer can spread to other parts of the body.

Sometimes the tumour can get into the blood vessels that pass through the liver, causing the cancer to spread outside the organ. HB most commonly spreads to the lungs and abdomen through the bloodstream.

3. Doctors don’t know what causes the disease.

However, the American Childhood Cancer Organization and Seattle Children’s Hospital report that some factors, such as rare genetic conditions, can increase the risk of liver cancer in children.

4. It usually affects children under the age of three.

In comparison, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the other main type of liver cancer, is most common among adults. However, it can affect older children and teens as well, usually between the ages of 10 and 16.

5. The most common symptom of HB is swelling of the abdomen.

This is caused by the tumour enlarging. According to Cure Search for Children’s Cancer, other symptoms may include stomach pain, weight loss, jaundice, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.

6. HB can be diagnosed in a number of ways, including a biopsy.

A biopsy is when sample tissue is taken from the tumour to be examined. Other ways HB can be diagnosed is through blood tests, X-rays, ultrasounds, MRI scans or a laparoscopy, which is a surgical procedure.

7. In 50 per cent of cases, HB can be cured by surgery alone.

The type of treatment a child receives depends on a number of factors, such as their age, overall health and the extent of the disease. Treatment for the disease is generally aimed at removing as much of the tumour as possible, without interfering with the liver’s functioning, which is why surgery is used.

Following the procedure, the liver can regenerate its tissue.

8. Chemotherapy and surgery often go hand-in-hand.

This is because chemo is used to reduce the size of tumours before removal. In the rare case this fails and doctors are unable to operate, a liver transplant is considered.

Chemo can also be used after surgery to eliminate any remaining cancer cells.

9. More than 50 per cent of children with HB beat the disease.

The chance of recovery varies for each child. However, “as with most cancers, cure rates for children are much higher than for adult cancers,” the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh reports.

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