- Biliary cystadenoma if a very rare condition.
- There is usually only one large cyst in your liver.
- It is more common in women.
- It is not yet clear what causes biliary cystadenoma.
- Symptoms include tummy pain and feeling full.
- In some cases biliary cystadenoma can cause cancer
- Treatment is usually a liver operation.
Many people with biliary cystadenoma will have no symptoms. If you do have symptoms they can be a bit different for everyone. And can be similar to the symptoms of a lot of other conditions. The most common symptoms of biliary cystadenoma are:
- Feeling full, as if you have eaten a big meal when you have not.
- Tummy pain
- A swollen tummy
Biliary cystadenoma is very rare, and the symptoms are like those for more common conditions. So you might have a lot of tests before you get a diagnosis.
The first tests you have will probably include a liver blood test and an ultrasound scan. If these tests find a possible problem then you will have an MRI or CT scan to take a closer look.
You can find out more about these tests in the drop down boxes below.
If you have symptoms of liver disease you should have a liver blood test. Some doctors still use the old term Liver Function Test (LFT). This test will look at several things in your blood. It cannot diagnose hydatid cysts. But it can give doctors an idea of how your liver is doing. And help to rule out more common liver problems. You can find out more about liver blood tests here.
An ultrasound scan is usually one of the first tests you have if you have a liver problem. It is quick and shouldn’t hurt. A wand is placed on your skin. The wand uses sound waves to get a picture of your liver and any cysts that are in it. You can find out more about having an ultrasound scan here.
An MRI scan uses magnets and radio waves to build up a picture of the inside of your body. It does not use x-rays and is very good at looking at the soft parts of your body, such as your liver.
An MRI scan usually takes about half an hour. The scanner is a tube. You will lie on a bed that moves into the tube. The scanner can be very loud, so you will be asked to wear headphones.
A CT scan will take a series of X-rays and use a computer to put them together to make a detailed picture.
A CT scan takes about half an hour. The scanner looks like a ring doughnut. You will lie on a bed that will move in and out of the hole in the middle of the ring.
Biliary cystadenomas usually need treatment. They can make you feel very unwell and there is a chance of “malignant transformation”. This is where the biliary cystadenoma becomes a type of cancer.
A type of surgery called a liver resection is considered the “gold standard” treatment for biliary cystadenoma.
This is an operation to remove the part of your liver with the cyst in it. Removing the cyst will mean that it cannot cause cancer. Your liver has an amazing ability to repair itself. It can get back to its normal size a few months after successful surgery.
But it is a big operation. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits in your case. These will be a bit different for everyone. You can also ask about practical things. Like how long you will be in hospital for, how long it will take to recover and how you can manage pain after the operation.
There can be a lot to take in at an appointment. It might help to write a list of questions before you arrive. You can also take someone with you or ask to record the appointment on your phone.
If possible, arrange to have some help for when you come out of hospital. You might find it hard to do all your normal tasks and activities for a few weeks. You can also feel more tired than normal for a few months while your liver recovers.
Most biliary cystadenomas do not cause cancer. It is unlikely that they will come back again after surgery. Biliary cystadenomas that had already become cancerous are more likely to come back again. After surgery your cyst will be looked at in a lab. Doctors will be able to tell you if there is a risk of cancer and what the next steps are.
You can find out more about bile duct cancer here
The symptoms of biliary cystadenoma can make life difficult. If you are finding it hard to eat you can lose weight and might not be getting all the nutrients that you need. If this happens speak to your doctor and ask to be referred to a registered NHS dietician. We have more information about coping with eating difficulties here.
The link between biliary cystadenoma and cancer can be worrying. Most cases of biliary cystadenoma do not cause cancer. But it is understandable to be concerned. Sometimes doctors can get an idea of the risk by looking at scans. They will be able to tell you more after the cyst is removed.
If you find that worry is having an impact on your mental health, we have information online about simple things that can help. There are also links to other organisations that can offer support.
Support for you
We have a range of support available to anyone living with a liver condition and their family and loved ones. This includes an online patient forum and a helpline run by specialist liver nurses. You can find out more here .
Published on 10/08/2023
Review date 10/08/2026