What is an abdominal mass?
An abdominal mass is an abnormal collection of tissue within the abdominal cavity. The abdominal cavity is the internal compartment between the chest and pelvis commonly referred to as the belly. Abdominal masses may be large or small, benign or malignant (cancerous), and curable or untreatable. Examples of small benign abdominal masses include hamartomas and cysts, which are solid and fluid-filled collections, respectively, of normal cells. Examples of serious abdominal masses are cancer, abscess, and abdominal aortic aneurysm, which is a life-threatening enlargement of the aorta within the abdomen.
A physician may detect abdominal masses on physical examination. Often, one or more imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or a CAT scan (also known as CT scan or CT), may be required in order to further define the mass. A definitive diagnosis may require a surgical biopsy, in which a piece of the mass is removed for examination under a microscope by a pathologist.
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Some abdominal masses, such as simple cysts, require no treatment at all. Others, such as colon cancer, may require extensive treatment with chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. The prognosis of an abdominal mass depends on its diagnosis.