A benign tumor is a noncancerous growth of cells or tissues in the body serving no purpose to your body’s everyday functions. It can develop anywhere in the body and does not spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body malignant (or cancerous) liver tumors sometimes do. Benign tumors do not usually pose any serious health threats to a person’s overall health and usually go undetected because they rarely present any symptoms or cause any serious health issues.
Benign liver tumors are no different.
Today we will look at some of the general characteristics of benign tumors, including causes and symptoms, and then explore some of the most common benign liver tumors people can be diagnosed with.
Causes and Symptoms of Benign Tumors
Many times the underlying causes of a benign tumor is unknown. There have, however, been some suggested links to benign tumors such as:
- Environmental toxin exposure
- Local trauma or injury
- Inflammation or infection
As mentioned above, most benign tumors do not present any symptoms, meaning patients are often unaware the tumors even exist. However, depending on the location of the tumor, some symptoms might appear because the tumor may affect surrounding organs.
Any growth in the body, whether benign or malignant, has the potential to press on vital blood vessels, nerves, or nearby organs causing pain or affecting normal functionality. Here are some of the possible symptoms you might experience if a benign tumor is affecting a nearby organ:
- Discomfort or pain in the surrounding area
- Loss of appetite/weight loss
- Night sweats
Unfortunately, most of these symptoms are rather common and may not alarm you enough to you checked by your physician for a benign tumor formation. It is, for this reason, why many go undiagnosed.
If by chance you do need to have a benign liver tumor removed, it is usually done laparoscopically to minimize scarring and recovery time. In some instances, traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation may be used to reduce the size of the liver tumor, despite it being benign.
Common Benign Liver Tumors
Hemangiomas are the most commonly diagnosed benign liver tumor. Affection up to 5% of American adults, this liver tumor is a malformation of blood vessels statistically affecting more women than men.
These tumors rarely cause any symptoms. In fact, many people have small hamangiomas on their liver and will live their entire lives unaware of them. Hemangiomas run a low risk of bleeding or tuning malignant and are often left untreated even if discovered during a routine physical examination.
Your physician may recommend removing a hemangioma if you are experiencing abdominal pain, nausea, or any other discomfort affection your daily lifestyle.
Focal Nodular Hyperplasias (FNH)
this type of benign tumor is the second most commonly occurring one found in the liver. Affecting mainly women ages 20-30, it is often found during imaging tests for other medical conditions.
FNHs are not vascular in nature, meaning they do not affect surrounding blood vessesl in the body. They usually do not cause any symptoms and ahve no malignant potential. Because of this, FNHs do not require treatment and are often just left alone on a “watch and wait” basis using regular CT scans or MRIs. If the FNH does not show any signs of growth, monitoring of it may cease.
In the past, this type of liver tumor was often hard to distinguish from hepatic adenomas, another type of benign liver tumor. Hepatic adenomas, as you will see in the next section, carry a higher risk for health complications. It is for this reason many FNHs were automatically resected for fear they were the more dangerous adenomas. Now, as imaging tests have become more advanced, differentiating between the two tumor types is easier.
If you are experiencing discomfort due to a large FNH, or the threat of rupture is apparent, your physician may order it to be removed surgically. This is extremely rare though and is not something most people with FNHs need to be concerned with.
This liver tumor is the least common of the three major benign liver tumor types. They occur most often in women of childbearing age and have even been linked to women using oral contraceptives or post-menopausal hormone replacements.
Hepatic adenomas originate in the epithelial tissue which is the thin layer of tissue covering organs, glands, and other structures. Though many go undetected and have little to no effect on the patient, large adenomas run the risk of rupturing and bleeding, or worse turning cancerous. This is why upon detection careful monitoring is required.
In general, if the adenoma is less than 3cm your physician will not recommend surgical removal. If it reaches 5cm or larger surgical removal will be necessary. For female patients, your physician may also require you stop any hormonal therapy, including birth control pills, to stop further growth of the adenoma.
Other Benign Liver Tumors
Though far less common than hemangiomas, FNHs, or hepatic adenomas, there are some other benign liver tumors that you may be diagnosed with during a routine checkup.
- Cystic Tumors – These growths, although originally benign, may turn malignant over long periods of time if left untreated. They do not usually impair your liver’s ability to function property, although complete surgical resection is the best option for this type of liver tumor.
- Lipoma – Also know as fatty tumors, lipomas develop based on a person’s age, health condition, and genetic makeup, and are sometimes caused due to minor injuries. Your physician will not usually treat a lipoma because they are benign and do not grow in size. Sometimes if large enough, they will press on nerves causing pain and discomfort or interfere with your liver’s normal function. If that is the case, surgical removal will be considered.
- Leiomyoma – This type of liver tumor is benign smooth muscle growth that becomes cancerous only 0.1% of the time. Normally originating in the uterus, small bowel, and esophagus, discovery in the liver is not uncommon.
Benign liver tumors are not something to be overly concerned about unless they are causing you discomfort. Most benign liver tumors will go undetected and you will live a happy and healthy life none the wiser.
However, if you think you have a liver tumor of any type, whether benign or malignant, consider contacting Dr. Fraiman. Specializing in liver ailments and working with a highly specialized team of experts, any problems you have with your liver and its function will be handled in a patient-centered and caring way. You can rest assured that if treatment is necessary for your liver tumors, Dr. Fraiman will employ the best technology and most advanced medical treatments so that you can be the healthiest you possible.