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School of Medicine
Benign Liver Tumors and Cysts
There are several common types of benign liver tumors and cysts:
Focal nodular hyperplasia (FNH)
These masses are typically found during a routine examination. When a diagnosis of FNH has been made, your physician will probably recommend taking a wait and see approach with these types of benign tumors. You will be monitored using imaging scans like CT or MRI. If the focal nodular hyperplasia does not grow, then your physician may recommend no further treatment or monitoring.
These masses need to be monitored carefully as they can get bigger, bleed or turn into a cancer. Usually, your physician will determine the course of treatment and whether surgery is necessary depending on the size of the adenoma.
In general, if the adenoma is less than 3 cm, your physician will usually not recommend removal. If the adenoma is between 3-5 cm, your physician may recommend watching the mass carefully or removing it. However, if the adenoma is greater than 5 cm your physician will probably recommend surgery to remove it. For female patients, your physician may also recommend stopping the use of birth control pills.
These are malformation of the blood vessels. In general, hemangiomas have no risk of bleeding or turning into a cancer. Your physician will usually recommend removing a hemangioma only if it is causing symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea, or interfering with your lifestyle.
Other more rare conditions of the liver include:
Polycystic liver disease
Some patients are born with an inherited condition that causes them to develop many cysts within the liver. Most do not require surgery. However, some patients have cysts that become massively enlarged and press on adjacent organs. These cysts may require surgery to remove or open some of the cysts. This surgery can be done using both laparoscopic and open techniques. In rare cases, liver transplantation is recommended.
Patients may develop cysts for a number of reasons. Often cysts do not cause symptoms and are only treated surgically if the patient experiences symptoms related to the cyst. In some rare instances where the cyst comes from the bile ducts inside (biliary cystadenomas) or outside the liver (choledochal cysts), your surgeon may recommend surgery because they may turn into cancers.