What are benign liver tumours and are they dangerous?

Written by: Mr Charles Imber
Published:
Edited by: Bronwen Griffiths

Benign liver tumours are non-cancerous masses sometimes found in the liver. These tumours do not spread to other parts of the body and do not usually pose a serious health risk. Often symptomless, benign liver tumours can go unfound and are often realised during tests or procedures for other conditions. Expert surgeon, Mr Charles Imber, explains what benign liver tumours are and when they may require treatment.

What are the types of benign liver tumour?

Hemangiomas:

  • The most common form of benign liver tumour.
  • These are made up of a mass of blood vessels.
  • Women are more likely to develop these than men.

Focal nodular hyperplasias (FNH):

  • These are the second most common form of benign liver tumour.
  • They are often asymptomatic.
  • Often they are found in women aged 20 to 30 years.

Hepatocellualar adenomas:

  • The least common form of benign liver tumour.
  • They are usually found in women of child-bearing age, and have been linked to oral contraceptive use that have higher doses of oestrogen.
  • If they are found, it is usually advised to stop taking oral contraceptive pills as hormones can make them grow in size which could present problems down the line.

How are they detected?

Benign liver tumours are usually found during imaging tests, including ultrasound, CT scans or MRI scans.

Do benign liver tumours have symptoms?

In most cases, benign liver tumours do not have symptoms, however, when they do the symptoms displayed can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain in the upper-right abdomen
  • Feeling full after eating a small portion of food

Do benign liver tumours have to be removed? If so, how?

In rare instances where benign liver tumours grow to the point that they risk rupturing and bleeding into the abdominal cavity, surgical removal or other treatment options will be recommended. Rarely large tumours can stretch the capsule of the liver causing severe pain and if this affects quality of life then resection can be considered. Finally, adenomas larger than 4cm may infer a cancer risk to the patient as they can transform into hepatocellular carcinoma (a primary liver tumour), so resection or lifelong screening need to be considered. In the UK, malignant liver cancers are the 18th most common form of cancer, with approximately 5000 cases every year.

 

If you would like to find out more, make an appointment with a specialist.

By Mr Charles Imber
Surgery

Mr Charles Imber is a prominent consultant general surgeon with more than 20 years of experience working as a medical professional. After completing his medical studies at Manchester University and Cambridge University, he began specialising in liver transplants, hepatobiliary surgery, and pancreatic surgery, working at hospitals in London, Cambridge, and Birmingham, and became Consultant Surgeon in 2006. He continues to work at some of the capital's best hospitals and clinics, including the Royal Free Hospital and The Princess Grace Hospital in London. His other clinical interests include hernia surgery and gallbladder surgery. Always aiming to maximise patient care, he employs the use of the best technologies available, and is a pioneer of innovative mesh techniques for hernia repair. He is expert in both simple operations and more complicated cases, and has written extensively for peer-reviewed journals.

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