Benign Liver Tumors

Benign (noncancerous) liver tumors are common. They do not spread to other areas of the body and they usually do not pose a serious health risk. In fact, in most cases, benign liver tumors are not diagnosed because they cause no symptoms. When they are detected, it's usually because the person has had medical imaging tests, such as an ultrasound, CT test or MRI, for another condition.

The three most common types of benign liver tumors are hemangiomas, focal nodular hyperplasias, and hepatocellular adenomas. Rarely do any of these conditions require treatment.

Hemangiomas, the most common form of benign liver tumors, are masses of abnormal blood vessels. Up to 5 percent of adults in the United States may have small hemangiomas in their liver. Women are more likely than men to develop them. Usually these benign tumors produce no symptoms and do not need to be treated. When symptoms do occur, it is often caused by the size of the tumor and/ or proximity to other organs. In these instances, surgical intervention may be indicated.

Focal Nodular Hyperplasias or FNH, are the second most common form of benign liver tumors. These tumors do not cause symptoms or require treatment. They usually occur in women between the ages of 20 and 30. Like other forms of benign liver tumors, they are generally discovered during imaging tests for other conditions. In very rare cases, if they are large or causing pain, surgical removal may be recommended.

Hepatocellualar Adenomas are less common benign liver tumors. They occur most often in women of childbearing age and have been linked to oral contraceptive use, where higher doses of estrogen were used. Since these tumors generally do not cause symptoms, most are never detected and they rarely cause problems. Hepatocellular adenomas may grow in women who take hormone pills, so doctors will often advise discontinuing birth control pills or hormones to prevent further growth. The goal of this treatment is to shrink the tumor, but if this does not occur, surgery may be indicated.