A liver hemangioma (he-man-jee-O-muh) is a noncancerous (benign) mass in the liver. A liver hemangioma is made up of a tangle of blood vessels. Other terms for a liver hemangioma are hepatic hemangioma and cavernous hemangioma.
Most cases of liver hemangiomas are discovered during a test or procedure 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. There's no evidence that an untreated liver hemangioma can lead to liver cancer.
In most cases, a liver hemangioma doesn't cause any signs or symptoms.
When a liver hemangioma causes signs and symptoms, they may include:
- Pain in the upper right abdomen
- Feeling full after eating only a small amount of food
However, these symptoms are nonspecific and may be due to something else, even if you have a liver hemangioma.
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you experience any persistent signs and symptoms that worry you.
It's not clear what causes a liver hemangioma to form. Doctors believe liver hemangiomas are congenital — meaning that you're born with them.
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 very 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 complications and require treatment. It's not clear why this happens.
Factors that can increase the risk that a liver hemangioma will cause signs and symptoms include:
- Your age. A liver hemangioma can be diagnosed at any age, but it's most commonly diagnosed in people ages 30 to 50.
- Your sex. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with a liver hemangioma than are men.
- Pregnancy. Women who have been pregnant are more likely to be diagnosed with a liver hemangioma than women who have never been pregnant. It's believed the hormone estrogen, which rises during pregnancy, may play a role in liver hemangioma growth.
- Hormone replacement therapy. Women who used hormone replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms may be more likely to be diagnosed with a liver hemangioma than women who did not.
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.
Rarely, 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 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.