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A benign liver tumor is a non-cancerous growth arising from the liver. These growths, which may also be described as benign hepatic tumors, are relatively common and often cause no symptoms. A benign liver tumor may be discovered by chance during a scan which has been carried out to investigate another condition. Occasionally, the presence of the tumor may cause liver function tests to appear abnormal, but more often no liver dysfunction occurs. Benign liver tumors are usually only removed in rare cases where symptoms such as pain, bleeding or rupture occur.
The most common type of benign liver tumor is known as a hemangioma, which consists of blood vessels abnormally massed together. Hemangiomas may be discovered in adults or children, but they are thought to be present from birth, and may grow larger during pregnancy or as a result of taking contraceptive medication. This type of benign liver tumor occurs more frequently in women, is typically small and does not cause any symptoms unless, rarely, pain arises or the tumor bursts. When a hemangioma is diagnosed in an infant, often the tumor may be seen to shrink away before the age of two. Treatment is not necessary for most hemangiomas, but large tumors in young children may have to be surgically removed.
A hepatocellular adenoma is a benign liver tumor which is most often found in women before menopause. It is a relatively uncommon tumor, typically associated with taking oral contraceptives for a number of years. Symptoms do not usually occur, but sometimes abdominal pain may be experienced and occasionally the tumor may rupture or bleed into the abdomen. Due to the risk of bleeding, and the fact that there is a slight chance that malignancy may occur, with the adenoma transforming into liver cancer, treatment is usually carried out. Hepatocellular adenomas are typically removed using surgery, unless stopping contraceptive use causes them to shrink.
Focal nodular hyperplasia is a benign liver tumor which is more common than a hepatocellular adenoma, but less common than a hemangioma. It develops more frequently in women and typically causes no symptoms and requires no treatment. Focal nodular hyperplasia does not have a tendency to become malignant, but very occasionally it may burst open or hemorrhage, and an extremely large tumor may be removed before rupture occurs. Other types of benign liver tumor are exceedingly rare and may include fatty tumors, or lipomas, fibrous tumors and growths affecting the bile duct which leads from the gall bladder.
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