Benign Liver Lesions

Facts about Benign Liver Lesions

If you have a test which shows benign liver lesions, chances are very good you have nothing to worry about. The word, lesion, simply means damaged cells and the most common type is a tumor.

A benign tumor is not cancerous. It does not travel to other parts of the body and there is usually no risk to your health if a benign tumor is diagnosed. Cancerous tumors are called malignant tumors. Malignant tumors are very harmful and they can spread from one organ to another. They can also be fatal.

Benign liver lesions are usually spotted when you are being tested for something else. They can be diagnosed by a CT, MRI or ultrasound test. They are often quite small and they have no symptoms at all.

One of the most common benign liver lesions is a hemangioma. These can occur in anyone, whether you are an infant, child or adult. Scientists report that about five percent to twenty percent of all Americans have one or more of these tumors. There is no treatment needed unless a very large hemangioma is found in an infant. Depending on the location, the doctors might remove it.

Another kind of benign liver lesion is a focal nodular hyperplasia (FNH). Women are the most apt to have an FNH. It usually occurs in young women between the ages of twenty and thirty years old. No treatment is needed. On rare occasions a very large FNH might be removed but it would depend on the size and location.

The last type of benign liver lesions are hepatocellular adenomas. They are the least common of all. At one time these adenomas were thought to be related to taking “the pill.” Today oral contraceptives have less estrogen and so the problem is rarer. Hormones are notorious for causing tumors.

Post-menopausal hormone therapy also involves taking higher levels of estrogen and the same benign liver lesions can occur. If you have a large lesion, your doctor might want it removed. There is always concern that a large one may burst. If that happened it could cause bleeding in the abdomen. Any amount of bleeding in that part of the body can be dangerous. Overall, however, the adenomas are not life-threatening like cancers.

There is a rule of thumb which applies to hepatocellular adenomas. If it’s over 5 cm, the doctor will recommend removing it. If it’s between 3 and 5 cm, they will want to watch it and see if it grows. A tumor under 3 cm will be left alone. You might have to have several tests to keep determining that the lesion is still the same size.

Sometimes a person is born with a condition which can cause benign liver lesions. In most cases, no treatments are needed. But if a cyst or tumor should grow a lot larger, it might need to be removed. Any cyst that gets into the bile ducts can be dangerous and cause a blockage. If this happens to you, the cyst will have to be surgically removed. It can often be done by making a small hole and using a camera instead of by making an incision and opening up the liver.

While some people get upset when they think about any tumor, not every tumor is the enemy. Benign liver lesions are not harmful on their own. If they grow in a bad place, they are easily removed.

Don’t worry unnecessarily about tumors. If you should have an abdominal ultrasound and they notice spots on your liver, it is not automatically cancer. A needle biopsy can be done to diagnose the tumor as cancerous or not. Research shows that 72% of people who have liver tumors have benign liver lesions and not liver cancer.


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