Liver Cancer

A series of tests and procedures are used to diagnose childhood liver cancer. Initially your child's doctor will perform a thorough physical examination, checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual.

Other tests may include:

  • Serum tumor marker test — The blood of children who have liver cancer may have increased amounts of a protein called alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) or a hormone called beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (β-hCG). This blood test can indicate these protein and hormone levels.

  • Complete blood count (CBC) — This blood test measures the number of red blood cells (RBCs); the number of white blood cells (WBCs); the total amount of hemoglobin in the blood; the fraction of the blood composed of red blood cells (hematocrit); and the mean corpuscular volume (MCV), the size of the red blood cells.

  • Liver function tests — A blood sample is taken to measure the amounts of certain substances released into the blood by the liver. A higher than normal amount of a substance can be a sign of liver cancer.

  • Abdominal X-ray — An X-ray of the organs in the abdomen can reveal irregularities.

  • Ultrasound — High-frequency sound waves are used to create images of organs and systems within the body.

  • Computed Tomography (CT or CAT) Scan — This is an imaging method that uses X-rays to create cross-sectional pictures of the body. CT scans of the chest and abdomen are commonly used in cases of childhood liver cancer.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) — This a non-invasive way to take pictures of the body using powerful magnets and radio waves.

  • Biopsy — This involves the removal of cells or tissues so they can be examined for signs of cancer. The sample may be taken during surgery to remove or view the tumor.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Cancer & Blood Disease

Oncology Clinic
1825 Fourth St., Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
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Treatment Center
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San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-2584
Fax: (415) 353-2600
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