A hepatic hemangioma is the most common noncancerous liver tumor. Comprised of a mass of dilated blood vessels, this benign lesion is reported in only of the general U.S. population. Physicians consider it to be a birth defect. Women are affected more than men at a ratio of four to six: Generally, diagnosis is made in individuals between the ages of 30 and 50. Hepatic hemangiomas have been detected at infancy. Females are often diagnosed at an earlier age than men and present with larger tumors.
Usually, a hemangioma is small, about one quarter of an inch, and does not cause symptoms. Most tumors are discovered when the radiological imaging of the liver is done for other reasons. Larger tumors, ranging from one and a half to four inches in size, produce symptoms. The most common complaint is right upper quadrant pain. Hepatic hemangiomas are found more often in the right lobe of the liver than the left lobe. A person can experience nausea and vomiting along with a loss of appetite. A feeling of fullness after eating a small amount of food is another possible symptom. Upon physical examination, a physician will notice that the patient has an enlarged liver. Hormone levels appear to influence growth in tumor size in women. According to the Mayo Clinic, estrogen levels which increase during pregnancy may cause tumor growth. A woman with a hemangioma who has been pregnant is more likely to be diagnosed than a woman who has never been pregnant. Hormonal replacement therapy used to treat postmenopausal symptoms is believed to impact the growth of a hemangioma.
No treatment is necessary if a person is without symptoms. Larger tumors that cause symptoms can require intervention depending on the size and location of the mass. A growing hemangioma during pregnancy can cause symptoms and will require treatment. Radiation therapy, intervention to stop the blood flow to the hemangioma, and surgery to remove the tumor, part of the liver, or a liver transplant are methods of treatment.