Non-cancerous (Benign) liver tumours are common and usually do not produce symptoms. Often, they are not diagnosed until an ultrasound, CT or MRI scan is performed for other reasons e.g., health screening.
They do not spread to other areas of the body, and they usually do not pose a serious health risk. It is important to ensure these liver tumours are accurately evaluated as some early cancers may appear like benign tumours.
There are several types of benign liver tumours
- Hemangiomas are the most common form of benign liver tumours. They are a mass of abnormal blood vessels. Up to 5% of adults may have hemangiomas in their liver, and women are more likely to develop them. Treatment is usually not required.
- Focal nodular hyperplasia (FNH)
- FNH is the second most common benign liver tumour. These occur mainly in women between the ages of 20 and 40. They are generally discovered during scans for other conditions, and they do not usually require treatment unless they cause symptoms.
- Hepatic adenoma (HA)
- Also known as Hepatocellular adenoma (HCA), it is linked to the use of certain drugs (e.g., Oral contraceptives) and hormones. Most of these tumours remain asymptomatic and undetected. Sometimes, it may rupture and bleed into the abdomen, requiring surgery. It may enlarge in women who take hormone pills, such as for postmenopausal hormonal replacement therapy, or during pregnancy.
- Though rare, certain adenomas harbour the risk of cancerous transformation over time.
- Rarer forms of benign tumours can occur in the liver as well, such as - Biliary adenomas, Biliary hamartomas, Solitary fibrous tumour, Hepatic angiomyolipoma, Cirrhotic/regenerative nodules, focal fatty infiltration, to name a few.
- Cystic lesions
- Liver cysts are also considered cystic tumours of the liver. Find out more about liver cysts here.
Although most benign liver tumours are not dangerous and do not require treatment, it is important to highlight that accurate diagnosis of these tumours is crucial as some cancers may appear similar or mimic these benign tumours. Please consult a liver surgeon to find out more.
Senior Consultant Hepatopancreatobiliary Surgeon
MBBS, MMed (Surgery), MSc, FAMS, FRCSEd
Prior to private practice, Dr Lee Ser Yee was a founding member and Senior Consultant at the Department of Hepatopancreatobiliary (HPB) and Transplant Surgery at Singapore General Hospital (SGH). He served as the Director of the Laparoscopic programme and the Director of the Surgical Skills Training Program and the SingHealth Surgical Skills Centre.
He started his medical training at the National University of Singapore in 1996 and completed his training in General Surgery, HPB surgery and Liver Transplantation at SGH and National Cancer Centre, Singapore.
He also completed dual USA-fellowships in Advanced Laparoscopic HPB surgery and Liver Transplantation under Professor Daniel Cherqui at the New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center and a Complex Surgical Oncology clinical fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.