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Hepatocellular Adenoma

By Steven K. Herrine, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, and Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University

A hepatocellular adenoma is a relatively uncommon noncancerous liver tumor that may be mistaken for cancer. Rarely, it ruptures and bleeds or becomes cancerous.

Hepatocellular adenomas occur mainly in women of childbearing age, particularly those who use oral contraceptives.

Usually, these tumors cause no symptoms, so most remain undetected. Large adenomas may cause pain in the upper right part of the abdomen. Rarely, a hepatocellular adenoma suddenly ruptures and bleeds into the abdominal cavity, requiring emergency surgery. Very rarely, these tumors become cancerous.

An adenoma is usually suspected when an imaging test, such as ultrasonography, computed tomography (CT), or MRI is done and shows an abnormality. Sometimes a biopsy is needed to confirm the diagnosis.

Hepatocellular adenomas caused by oral contraceptive use may disappear when the woman stops taking the drug. If adenomas are large or located near the surface of the liver, surgery may be recommended because bleeding and cancer are risks.

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