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Home News and Update Year 2009 Rare Cancer Gnaws at Toddler's Liver

Rare Cancer Gnaws at Toddler's Liver

11 April 2009
By Deepa Suryanarayan
Mumbai, India

Eighteen–month–old Neelu’s (name changed) father wanted her to become a doctor when she grew up. But a month ago, after seeing her undergo four sessions of chemotherapy, Raju Patnaik had lost hope she would even survive until her second birthday.

Neelu was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma, a rare form of cancer that affects the liver, in November last year.

“She had a lump in her abdomen, and a sonography revealed the presence of a tumour,” said Patnaik, a farmer from Orissa, who then brought Neelu to Mumbai.

Hepatoblastoma occurs in one in a million children, usually under the age of five. It usually affects the right side of the liver, and is more prevalent in boys more than girls.

But in this case, the baby was female. What’s more, the tumour was big and had spread to the left side of the liver as well.

On March 23, a team of surgeons at Wockhardt hospital performed a liver resection surgery on the baby, removing the tumour as well as about 40% of her liver. “Liver surgery is extremely difficult and risky. It is even more risky when it comes to infants,” said Dr SK Mathur, senior consultant surgeon and liver transplant specialist, Wockhardt Hospital, who performed the four–hour surgery.

“However, in this case, the tumour was so big that the baby had to undergo four sessions of chemotherapy to bring the tumour down to a manageable size,” said Dr Mathur.

“We had to ensure that the entire diseased part of the liver was removed with no blood loss, and at the same time ensure that no damage was done to the surrounding blood vessels and to the healthy part of the liver,” said Dr Mahesh Goel, consultant onco–surgeon. The liver has the capacity to regenerate up to 90% in just six weeks, he added.

Neelu will now have to undergo two more sessions of chemotherapy. “You can detect these tumours when the child is in the womb with the help of the ultrasound. Once the diagnosis is done, treatment can be started as soon as the child is born,” said Dr Mathur.

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