Abdominal Mass: All You Need to Know
What is an abdominal mass?
An abdominal mass is an abnormal growth in the abdomen usually accompanied by a protrusion that can alter the shape of the abdomen. It can be mobile, stable, hard, or even soft.
The abdomen is anatomically divided into four sections (quadrants) and the location of the mass in any of these locations determines the description of the mass. These four sections are the right upper quadrant, left upper quadrant, right lower quadrant, and left lower quadrant.
The stomach is divided into two sections as well: the epigastric section and the periumbilical section. The periumbilical section lies right below and arround the belly button; the epigastric lies above the belly button and below the ribs.
Abdominal masses can be treated. But it is important to note that health complications may arise depending on the cause of the mass.
What causes the formation of an abdominal mass?
A benign tumor, injuries, cyst, cancer, or other diseases can cause an abdominal lump.
It is an abnormal fluid-filled mass in the abdomen. This mass can also be filled with infected matter.
Cysts that readily induce the formation of an abdominal mass are ovarian cysts, cholecystitis — often caused by gallstones (abnormal mass of hardened digestive fluid) that block the tube leading out of the gallbladder, causing gallbladder inflammation.
Cancers of the liver, stomach, and kidney can promote mass formation in the abdomen
The following diseases can enhance abdominal mass formation;
Pancreatic abscess: It is a pus-filled cavity right in the pancreas.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA): Abdominal aortic aneurysm is the enlargement and protrusion of the abdominal aorta (large blood vessel supplying blood to the abdomen, pelvis, and legs, in that order).
Hydronephrosis: It is a condition where the kidneys are enlarged due to the accumulation of urine.
Diverticulitis: It is the inflammation diverticula. Diverticula are common pouches that are formed in weak regions of the colon and intestines.
Splenic and liver enlargement
Crohn’s disease: It is an inflammatory intestinal disease (IBD) that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract.
Symptoms of an abdominal mass
Symptoms of this condition include:
- abdominal pains
- weight gain
- a protrusion in the affected areas
- a feeling of fullness in the abdomen
- inability to urinate
- difficulty in passing stool, etc.
Diagnosing an abdominal mass
When you visit your doctor, he or she will first take your medical history. Taking your medical history involves asking you certain questions in order to have an idea of what the problem might be.
At the end of this, the doctor will be able to know the mass location. Knowledge of the mass location and the affected structures will guide the doctor on how to go about treating you.
While you lie on an examining table, the doctor gently presses his hand on different parts of your abdomen. By so doing, the location of the mass can be determined.
These tests can help determine the mass size, location, and what type it is.
Colonoscopy: This process involves the closer examination of the digestive system by inserting a small tube-like microscope into the colon.
Complete blood count: It is a kind of blood test that assesses the integrity of all the blood types in the body. This test can help the doctor ascertain the presence or absence of an infection.
Transvaginal ultrasound: This is especially needful for women with ovarian cysts. In this procedure, a probe is inserted into the ovaries and uterus for a better view of them.
Treating abdominal masses
The treatment is based on its cause. Treatment may then come in the form of surgery, medication, or specialized care as the case presents.
Hormonal medication will be to correct masses caused by hormonal anomalies e.g. ovarian cyst.
Surgery will be adopted in eliminating the mass particularly when it has become life-threatening e.g. cysts and tumor cases.
Cancerous abdominal masses can also be shrunk using radiation therapy or chemotherapy until the size is small enough for surgical removal.
Abdominal masses can actually squeeze the life out of abdominal organs. It causes “speedy” organ damage. Damaged parts must be removed so that healthy parts will not be affected. The more the masses found out, the more different means might be employed to fix the situation.
It has been found out that masses that are cancerous may resurface after a treatment.
A woman can have polycystic ovary syndrome and this, in turn, may initiate the formation of multiple ovarian cysts every month. Surgery might be needed to remove them when they become life-threatening.
Potential health complications
Some abdominal masses may grow so big that they choke off organs and cause damage. If any part of the organ is damaged, then surgical removal becomes inevitable.
If a person has multiple masses in his/her abdomen, such a patient may require several forms of treatment or surgeries to remove the masses. If the masses were cancerous, then they will return after treatment.
Women experiencing polycystic ovary syndrome may develop a couple of cysts on a monthly basis. These cysts may resolve without treatment, but some may grow large enough to warrant surgical removal.
Ifiokobong Ene is a Medical Physiologist, and a freelance medical writer. Ifiok brings his years of medical research experience to help consistently create high-quality, and engaging articles and products that uphold the highest medical standards. He is dedicated to making health and wellness information available, actionable, and understandable so that readers can make the best decisions about their health.