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Abdominal mass

  • Definition

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

    Alternative Names

    Mass in the abdomen


    An abdominal mass is usually found during a routine physical examination. Most of the time the mass develops slowly. You may not be able to feel the mass.

    Finding where the pain occurs helps the doctor make a diagnosis. For example, the abdomen is usually divided into four areas:

    • Right-upper quadrant
    • Left-upper quadrant
    • Right-lower quadrant
    • Left-lower quadrant

    Other terms used to find the location of abdominal pain or masses include:

    • Epigastric -- center of the abdomen just below the rib cage
    • Periumbilical -- area around the bellybutton

    The location of the mass and its firmness, texture, and other qualities can provide clues to its cause.

    Common Causes
    • Abdominal aortic aneurysm can cause a pulsating mass around the navel.
    • Bladder distention (urinary bladder over-filled with fluid) can cause a firm mass in the center of the lower abdomen above the pelvic bones. In extreme cases it can reach as far up as the navel.
    • Cholecystitis can cause a very tender mass that is felt below the liver in the right-upper quadrant (occasionally).
    • Colon cancer can cause a mass almost anywhere in the abdomen.
    • Crohn's disease or bowel obstruction can cause many tender, sausage-shaped masses anywhere in the abdomen.
    • Diverticulitis can cause a mass that is usually located in the left-lower quadrant.
    • Gallbladder tumor can cause a tender, irregularly shaped mass in the right-upper quadrant.
    • Hydronephrosis (fluid-filled kidney) can cause a smooth, spongy-feeling mass in one or both sides or toward the back (flank area).
    • Kidney cancer can sometimes cause a mass in the abdomen.
    • Liver cancer can cause a firm, lumpy mass in the right upper quadrant.
    • Liver enlargement (hepatomegaly) can cause a firm, irregular mass below the right rib cage, or on the left side in the stomach area.
    • Neuroblastoma, a cancerous tumor, often found in the lower abdomen, that mainly occurs in children and infants.
    • Ovarian cyst can cause a smooth, rounded, rubbery mass above the pelvis in the lower abdomen.
    • Pancreatic abscess can cause a mass in the upper abdomen in the epigastric area.
    • Pancreatic pseudocyst can cause a lumpy mass in the upper abdomen in the epigastric area.
    • Renal cell carcinoma can cause a smooth, firm, but not tender mass near the kidney (usually only affects one kidney).
    • Spleen enlargement (splenomegaly) can sometimes be felt in the left-upper quadrant.
    • Stomach cancer can cause a mass in the left-upper abdomen in the stomach area (epigastric) if the cancer is large.
    • Uterine leiomyoma (fibroids) can cause a round, lumpy mass above the pelvis in the lower abdomen (sometimes can be felt if the fibroids are large).
    • Volvulus can cause a mass anywhere in the abdomen.
    • Ureteropelvic junction obstruction can cause a mass in the lower abdomen.