Liver cysts are fluid-filled sacs that appear on your liver. Nearly all liver cysts are benign (noncancerous) and don’t grow large enough to cause symptoms. Healthcare providers may treat liver cysts by monitoring the cysts. They may also treat the cysts with surgery or medication.
Liver cysts are fluid-filled sacs that appear on your liver. Nearly all liver cysts are benign (noncancerous). Few cysts grow large enough to cause symptoms. Some liver cysts are caused by an inherited disorder that may require treatment, though.
Benign liver cysts, sometimes called simple cysts, are the most common form of liver cyst. Healthcare providers estimate that 15% to 18% of people in the United States and 5% to 10% of people worldwide have liver cysts.
Overall, liver cysts may affect people between ages 30 to 70, but only 10 % to 15% of people develop obvious symptoms. More females than males are born with liver cysts and more males than females develop liver cysts.
Liver cysts rarely become precancerous or turn into cancerous cysts. Healthcare providers use surgery to treat liver cysts that cause symptoms or are cancerous. About 1% to 5% of all liver cysts are precancerous and about 30% of those cysts become cancerous. Healthcare providers treat cancerous liver cysts with surgery.
While nearly all liver cysts are benign (noncancerous) and don’t grow large enough to cause symptoms, a very small percentage of liver cysts can become cancerous. However, two types of cystic liver disease may require surgery or other treatment:
Some medical studies show benign liver cysts going away without treatment. It’s important to remember that most liver cysts are benign and don’t grow large enough to cause symptoms. Healthcare providers may perform surgery to remove large cysts.
Liver cysts can be as tiny as a pinhead or measure 4 inches across.
Nearly all liver cysts are congenital, meaning they’re present at birth. Healthcare providers aren’t sure what causes congenital liver cysts.
Most people who have benign or cancerous liver cysts never have symptoms. Those who do may have the following symptoms:
Many times, healthcare providers discover liver cysts while performing imaging tests for other conditions. Imaging tests that reveal liver cysts include:
If healthcare providers spot liver cysts during imaging tests, they may do the following to diagnose or rule out conditions such as precancerous or cancerous liver cysts, polycystic liver disease or liver cysts caused by parasites:
Most benign or simple liver cysts don’t need to be treated. But healthcare providers may remove benign or simple liver cysts that grow larger than 4 centimeters across.
Procedures and surgeries to remove large benign cysts, cysts caused by polycystic liver disease and precancerous or cancerous liver cysts include:
Most liver cysts are congenital, meaning they’re present at birth.
Your prognosis, or expected outcome, depends on the type of cyst you have:
Some people need surgery or other treatment for their liver cysts. If that’s your situation, ask your healthcare provider for information on managing treatment side effects.
Many times, liver cysts grow undetected until they show up during routine imaging tests. Some questions to ask your healthcare provider that may help you understand next steps in dealing with this unexpected diagnosis include:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Most people first learn they have liver cysts during tests for other reasons. While no one likes hearing about an unexpected health issue, it may help to know that nearly all liver cysts are benign and rarely cause symptoms that could affect your quality of life. Often, healthcare providers choose to monitor cysts rather than do surgery to remove them. If you’re concerned about liver cysts, ask your healthcare provider for information about your situation so you know what to expect.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/08/2022.
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