Diagnosing Benign Liver Masses
Relatively common in the liver, benign (noncancerous) liver masses or lesions may incidentally be detected on imaging studies, abnormal liver function tests, or during investigation of abdominal pain.
Symptoms of benign liver masses
- Pain often occurs in lesions greater than 5 to 6 centimeters in size
- Many people experience no symptoms
- Can be associated with birth control use
Focal nodular hyperplasia (FNH)
Hepatic cysts (large)
- Abdominal pain or fullness
- A palpable mass
Testing for benign liver masses
Differentiating benign liver lesions from cancers can sometimes be done by radiologic imaging studies alone.
In addition to a physical exam, your doctor may order the following tests:
Imaging studies, such as CT scans or abdominal ultrasounds, can show:
- The size and location of the lesion(s)
- Any blood clots in the major branches of the portal and hepatic veins
- Any enlarged lymph nodes
- Evidence of cirrhosis and its complications
- The vasculature structure surrounding the lesion
FNH lesions are usually well defined, with a typical “central scar” on CT scans.
Hepatic cysts can usually be differentiated from solid lesions by ultrasound or CT scans.
It's helpful to compare the size of the lesion to prior imaging studies (if they exist), to determine if the mass is growing. Follow-up imaging is important to ensure that the lesion is not enlarging.
Blood tests measure a complete blood cell count and assess how well your liver works. These include liver function tests, as well as tumor markers to evaluate your general health.
If the diagnosis is not clear, then often a liver biopsy is done to examine a sliver of the liver mass under the microscope. This outpatient procedure allows the liver pathologist t o determine the tissue diagnosis or if cancer cells are present.
Hemangiomas — Caution should be taken in ordering a liver biopsy if the suspected diagnosis is hemangioma, due to the risk of bleeding from the biopsy site, especially if the lesion is at the edge of the liver.
To schedule an appointment, or for more information, call the UPMC Liver Cancer Center, toll-free, at 1-855-745-4837 (LIVER) or complete our contact form now.