Mass in the abdomen
An abdominal mass is swelling in one part of the belly area (abdomen).
An abdominal mass is often found during a routine physical exam. Most of the time, the mass develops slowly. You may not be able to feel the mass.
Locating the mass helps your health care provider make a diagnosis. For example, the abdomen can be divided into four areas:
Other terms used to describe the location of abdominal pain or masses include:
The location of the mass and its firmness, texture, and other qualities can provide clues to its cause.
Several conditions can cause an abdominal mass:
All abdominal masses should be examined as soon as possible by the provider.
Changing your body position may help relieve pain due to an abdominal mass.
Get medical help right away if you have a pulsating lump in your abdomen along with severe abdominal pain. This could be a sign of a ruptured aortic aneurysm, which is an emergency condition.
Contact your provider if you notice any type of abdominal mass.
In nonemergency situations, your provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your symptoms and medical history.
In an emergency situation, you will be stabilized first. Then, your provider will examine your abdomen and ask questions about your symptoms and medical history, such as:
A pelvic or rectal exam may be needed in some cases. Tests that may be done to find the cause of an abdominal mass include:
Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW. Abdomen. In: Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW, eds. Seidel's Guide to Physical Examination. 10th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2023:chap 18.
Landmann A, Bonds M, Postier R. Acute abdomen. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 21st ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022:chap 46.
McQuaid KR. Approach to the patient with gastrointestinal disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 123.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 10/20/2022
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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