Hepatoblastoma (Childhood Liver Cancer) - Symptoms & Causes

What is hepatoblastoma?

Hepatoblastoma is a very rare type of liver cancer that happens in young children. The cancer disrupts the normal functioning of the liver, which plays a vital role in filtering toxins, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, and regulating blood clotting.

Like other cancers, hepatoblastoma may also spread to other parts of the body, particularly the lungs and the lymph nodes around the belly and bones.

Hepatoblastoma is more likely to occur in children who were born premature with very low birth weights, or who have certain genetic disorders.

What are the symptoms of hepatoblastoma?

Children with hepatoblastoma may experience symptoms differently, depending on the size of the tumour and if it has spread from the liver to other organs.

The most common symptom of hepatoblastoma is a swollen lump in the belly.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the upper right side or middle of the abdomen
  • Enlarged veins in the skin around the abdomen
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Itchy skin

If your child shows any of these symptoms, bring them to see a doctor as early as possible.

What causes hepatoblastoma?

The exact cause of hepatoblastoma is unknown. However, there are a few risk factors that may affect your child's chances of getting this type of cancer.

What are the risk factors for hepatoblastoma?

Certain genetic or medical conditions may increase the risk of developing hepatoblastoma. These include:

  • Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome. This is a growth disorder that causes multiple organ abnormalities and malformations.
  • Biliary atresia. This is a condition in newborn babies where bile is blocked from moving from the liver to the small intestine, leading to liver damage.
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis. This is a group of rare inherited diseases of the gastrointestinal tract that causes pre-cancerous polyps in the large intestine.
  • Hemihyperplasia (also known as hemihypertrophy). This is a rare condition where the body grows unevenly, with one side of the body visibly larger than the other.
This page has been reviewed by our medical content reviewers.

Need help?

For enquiries, please call
+65 6250 0000 (Orchard) or +65 6898 6898 (Novena)

For appointment bookings, please WhatsApp
+65 8111 7777 (Orchard) or +65 8111 5777 (Novena)