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Lumps that are easily felt on the surface of the abdomen may be due to conditions involving the skin, fat or muscles. However, lumps inside the stomach or abdomen are usually not palpated or felt by the fingers when one examines himself. Unless the lump or a mass is big or located close to the abdominal wall, it will take a physician's expertise to palpate or feel for a small mass that is situated deep within the organs in the abdomen.

Common Lumps in the Abdomen

Lumps in the skin, fat tissues and muscles in the abdomen may be easily seen and felt by an individual. Aside from these, there are many organs in the abdomen that can become enlarged or have a new growth, causing lumps to develop. These lumps or abdominal masses may have different sizes, shapes and consistency, and may be accompanied by symptoms such as pain, fever, bloating, changes in bowel habits, changes in menstrual patterns, and more. These lumps may be solid or cystic (like a balloon), soft or hard, fixed or movable. Some are slow-growing while others may develop rapidly.

These may include:

  • Liver enlargement (hepatomegaly) or a lump in the liver. The liver may enlarge as a whole due to inflammation, like in people who have hepatitis, or a lump may grow on one part of the liver. Masses involving the liver are usually found in the right upper portion of the abdomen, but may extend to the middle or left side of the abdomen.

  • An enlarged spleen (splenomegaly) is usually found on the left upper portion, but may extend to the lower and middle part of the abdomen. Leukemia, liver disease and severe infections can cause splenic enlargement.

  • A new growth in any of the tubular organs of the digestive tract (stomach and intestines) can cause an abdominal mass, which when big enough, can push other organs and cause abdominal enlargement. Symptoms vary, depending on the location of the mass and organ involved. Changes in appetite and bowel habits, internal bleeding, and abdominal pain are common.

  • Pancreatic pseudocysts, abscess or cancer can manifest as a lump in the upper left ot middle of the abdomen. Severe abdominal pain, vomiting and loss of weight are characteristic of pancreatic disease.

  • The abdominal aorta is a large blood vessel that can develop a balloon or aneurysm. When big enough, it can cause a large pulsating abdominal mass that can cause back pain. This can be a life-threatening condition, which needs immediate treatment.

  • The urinary bladder, uterus, ovaries and other organs of the genito-urinary system can develop lumps that may cause lower abdominal enlargement. Changes in urinary habits and menstrual patterns may be experienced.

Diagnosis

Aside from evaluation of your medical history and physical examination, a doctor will request for laboratory work-up, which may include blood, urine and stool tests. Imaging exams such as x-ray, CT scan and MRI may be helpful in locating and identifying an abdominal mass. Endoscopic and laparascopic examinations may also be needed to view a mass directly and to take a tissue biopsy if needed, for diagnosis.

When to See a Doctor

It is advisable to consult your doctor if you notice any enlargement of the abdomen or presence of a new lump that bothers you.

Seek medical help immediately if these symptoms also occur:

  • severe abdominal pain

  • high fever, chills

  • chronic, persistent or recurring changes in bowel habits

  • internal bleeding/passing out blood

  • repeated bouts of vomiting

  • significant loss of weight

  • yellowing of skin and eyes

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