A liver hemangioma is a noncancerous mass that typically doesn't need treatment. Find out more about this common liver condition and when to get treatment.
A liver hemangioma (he-man-jee-O-muh) is a noncancerous (benign) mass in the liver made up of a tangle of blood vessels. Also known as hepatic hemangiomas or cavernous hemangiomas, these liver masses are common and are estimated to occur in up to 20% of the population.
Most cases of liver hemangiomas are discovered during an imaging study done for some other condition. People who have a liver hemangioma rarely experience signs and symptoms and typically don't need treatment.
It may be unsettling to know you have a mass in your liver, even if it's a benign mass. However, there's no evidence that an untreated liver hemangioma can lead to liver cancer.
A liver hemangioma is a noncancerous (benign) mass in the liver. A liver hemangioma is made up of a tangle of blood vessels.
In most cases, a liver hemangioma doesn't cause any signs or symptoms.
When a liver hemangioma causes signs and symptoms, they may include:
However, these symptoms are nonspecific and in most instances are due to something else even if you have a liver hemangioma, as these tend to be asymptomatic.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you experience any persistent signs and symptoms that worry you.
The liver is your largest internal organ. About the size of a football, it's located mainly in the upper right portion of your abdomen, beneath the diaphragm and above your stomach.
It's not clear what causes a liver hemangioma to form. Doctors believe liver hemangiomas are present at birth (congenital).
A liver hemangioma usually occurs as a single abnormal collection of blood vessels that is less than about 1.5 inches (about 4 centimeters) wide. Occasionally liver hemangiomas can be larger or occur in multiples. Large hemangiomas can occur in young children, but this is rare.
In most people, a liver hemangioma will never grow and never cause any signs and symptoms. But in a small number of people, a liver hemangioma will grow to cause symptoms and require treatment. It's not clear why this happens.
Factors that can increase the risk that a liver hemangioma will be diagnosed include:
Women who have been diagnosed with liver hemangiomas face a risk of complications if they become pregnant. The female hormone estrogen, which increases during pregnancy, is believed to cause some liver hemangiomas to grow larger.
Very rarely, a growing hemangioma can cause signs and symptoms that may require treatment, including pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, abdominal bloating or nausea. Having a liver hemangioma doesn't mean you can't become pregnant. However, discussing the possible complications with your doctor can help you make a more informed choice.
Medications that affect hormone levels in your body, such as birth control pills, could cause an increase in size and complications if you've been diagnosed with a liver hemangioma. But this is controversial. If you're considering this type of medication, discuss the benefits and risks with your doctor.
Tests used to diagnose liver hemangiomas include:
Other tests may be used depending on your situation.
If your liver hemangioma is small and doesn't cause any signs or symptoms, you won't need treatment. In most cases a liver hemangioma will never grow and will never cause problems. Your doctor may schedule follow-up exams to check your liver hemangioma periodically for growth if the hemangioma is large.
Liver hemangioma treatment depends on the location and size of the hemangioma, whether you have more than one hemangioma, your overall health, and your preferences.
Treatment options may include:
Most liver hemangiomas are discovered during a test or procedure for something else. If it's thought that you have a liver mass, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in the digestive system (gastroenterologist) or one who specializes in the liver (hepatologist).
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment and to know what to expect from your doctor.
For a liver hemangioma, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions you have.
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including: