Non-cancerous tumours of the liver

A non-cancerous (benign) tumour of the liver is a growth that does not spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Non-cancerous tumours are not usually life-threatening. They are typically removed with surgery and do not usually come back (recur).

Many people don't know that they have a non-cancerous liver tumour because they usually don't cause symptoms. They are often found during an imaging test done for other reasons.

Most non-cancerous liver tumours don't need to be treated. Surgery may be done if the tumour causes pain, breaks open (ruptures) and starts bleeding, blocks the bile ducts or grows bigger than 5 cm.

There are many types of non-cancerous tumours of the liver.

Hemangioma

A hemangioma is the most common non-cancerous liver tumour. It is made up of abnormal blood vessels. Women are more likely to develop hemangiomas than men.

Focal nodular hyperplasia

Focal nodular hyperplasia is the second most common non-cancerous liver tumour. It is made up of many different cell types (liver cells, bile duct cells and connective tissue cells). Sometimes focal nodular hyperplasia tumours look like liver cancer tumours. Doctors sometimes remove them when the diagnosis is unclear. Focal nodular hyperplasia is most commonly found in women between the ages of 20 and 30.

Hepatic adenoma

Hepatic adenomas are rare. They can develop as one tumour or as many tumours throughout the liver. They are more common in women between puberty and menopause. They also develop more often in women who use oral birth control. The risk of developing a hepatic adenoma is also higher in people who use anabolic steroids or have type 1 diabetes.

Hepatic cystadenoma

Hepatic cystadenoma is a very rare type of non-cancerous liver tumour. These tumours are often multifocal (found in many areas of the liver) and are more common in women.

Hepatic cystadenomas can become cancerous (malignant), especially if they grow large. For this reason, doctors usually remove them with surgery. But they often come back after they are removed.

Liver cysts

Liver cysts are sacs filled with fluid or semi-solid material. They may be in the liver at birth (called congenital cysts) or they may develop later in life. Most liver cysts grow very slowly and rarely cause any symptoms. Doctors will drain them or remove them with surgery if they cause symptoms such as pain.

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