BODY SIGNAL ALERT: ABDOMEN, LUMPS OR MASSES IN

Description and Possible Medical Problems

Anytime you notice a lump or other mass in your abdomen that wasn’t there before, you should consult your doctor. First, ask yourself these questions:

1. Does the mass disappear with a bowel movement? Does it appear after a meal?

2. When I change position, does the mass change as well?

3. Have I noticed any change in my urination habits lately?

4. Is the mass painful?

A new lump or mass in the abdomen could actually be an enlarged internal organ. If it appears under your left rib cage and feels smooth, it may be an enlargement of your spleen. If you notice a painful mass that is either smooth or bumpy under your right rib cage, your liver may be enlarged.

The most common cause of a lump or mass that appears suddenly, however, is a stool that stays in the bowel longer than usual due to constipation; it will feel like a sausagelike mass. You’ll also be gassy. In older men who have prostate problems, the bladder can enlarge and become distended if an enlarged prostate makes it difficult to urinate.

In women, a mass that appears below the navel may be fibroid masses in the uterus. In some cases, a mass can actually be a harmless lipoma, or mass of fat, in the belly that might be present for years.

Treatment

If you detect a mass in your intestine, either by feeling it physically or by noticing that your abdomen is distended, if the mass does not go away after a bowel movement or if it has been present for more than a few days, you should see your doctor. He will conduct a physical exam and health history to help him determine the cause. Your descriptions of other Body Signals, whether a recent fever or cold or prostate problems, will help him make the diagnosis and determine treatment.

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