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Abdominal mass

Fibroid tumors
Aortic aneurysm

Definition

An abdominal mass is swelling in one part of the belly area (abdomen).

Alternative Names

Mass in the abdomen

Considerations

An abdominal mass is most 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 pain helps your health care provider make a diagnosis. For example, the abdomen can be divided into 4 areas:

Other terms used to find 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.

Causes

Several conditions can cause an abdominal mass:

Home Care

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.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

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.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

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:

References

Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW. Abdomen. In: Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW, eds. Siedel's Guide to Physical Examination. 8th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby; 2015:chap 17.

McQuaid K. Approach to the patient with gastrointestinal disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 132.

Squires R, Carter SN, Postier RG. Acute abdomen. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 20th ed. Elsevier; 2017:chap 45.


Review Date: 12/10/2016
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.