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An abdominal mass is an abnormal growth inside the abdomen. The abdomen is divided into four quadrants: the right upper quadrant, left upper quadrant, right lower quadrant and left lower quadrant. Abdominal masses are usually described by their locations.

Abdominal masses can be the result of a number factors, including an injury, cyst, cancer, tumor or disease.

The most common causes of an abdominal mass are :

  • Crohn's disease - a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract which mainly affects the ileum and rectum, though abdominal masses may form on any part of the abdomen

  • Diverticulitis - causes a mass that is usually located in the left-lower quadrant.

  • Cholecystitis - inflammatory disease of the gallbladder. Can cause the development of an abdominal mass in the upper right quadrant, just beneath the liver.

  • Pancreatic abscess - a collection of pus from the necrosing and infection of the tissue. It can cause a mass in the epigastric area.

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm - a pulsating abdominal mass in synchrony with the heartbeat, especially likely in underweight persons.

  • Bladder distention - comes from the retention of urine and can cause a firm mass in the center of the lower abdomen above the pelvic bones.

  • Hydronephrosis - distention and dilatation of the renal pelvis and the calyces caused by urine retention and obstruction of urine flow from the kidneys. It can cause a smooth- spongy feeling mass in one or both sides of the abdomen depending on the number of kidneys affected.

  • Kidney cancer can sometimes cause a mass in the abdomen, usually on only one side.

  • Hepatomegaly - enlargement of the liver and can cause an abdominal mass below the ribs on the right side.

  • Splenomegaly - enlargement of the spleen sometimes causes a mass in the left side of the abdomen, below the ribs.

  • Neuroblastoma - a neuroendocrine tumor that is the most common cancer in childhood and usually forms a mass in the lower abdomen.

  • Ovarian cysts may form a mass in the pelvis and abdomen which is round-shaped and soft to the touch.

  • Pancreatic pseudocysts can cause an abdominal mass in the epigastrium.

  • Stomach cancer causes a massive abdominal mass in the epigastrium.

  • Uterine leiomyoma - a benign smooth muscle neoplasm, causing an abdominal mass in the pelvis.

  • Volvulus - can occur at various locations of the gastrointestinal tract and therefore the abdominal mass can be felt anywhere in the abdomen.

Signs of an abdominal mass are: pain, nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, feeling full, swelling in the affected area, problems with urination, fever, and others.

When you have noticed an abdominal mass or you have any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should seek medical help.

First, your doctor will go over your medical history, what symptoms you have and when they started, and ask where in the abdomen you can feel the pain. This will help the doctor localize the place of the abdominal mass. After that, your doctor will do an bimanual examination of your abdomen (You should lie back while he or she gently presses on various areas of the abdomen).

An imaging test is usually ordered to determine the size and location of the mass like:

  • Abdominal computed axial tomography (CAT) scan

  • Abdominal X-ray

  • Abdominal ultrasound.

A blood test is also usually ordered.

The treatment depends from the type of the abdominal mass and it may be medical, surgical or even more specialized treatment.

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