Chattanooga doctor shares steps for what to do if you find a lump in your abdomen

Q: I recently discovered a lump in the lower part of my abdomen, and a friend suggested it might be a hernia. How can I determine if it's a hernia, and what steps should I take?

A: Lumps in the abdominal wall commonly stem from hernias or lipomas.

Lipomas are non-cancerous fatty tissue growths that typically remain localized and don't spread to other body parts. While they may cause discomfort, lipomas might require removal if they pose problems in areas beyond the abdominal wall. Often, lipomas are mistaken for another type of abdominal lump known as a hernia.

A hernia is essentially a gap in the connective tissue beneath the skin. Contents from the abdomen, such as fat or intestines, can protrude through this opening, creating a noticeable lump. Typically, a hernia lump tends to disappear when lying down and reappears upon standing.

Distinguishing between these two lumps is crucial because a hernia and its contents can lead to significant pain and complications if the trapped tissue experiences compression, affecting its blood supply. In more severe cases, a strangulated hernia, where blood supply is cut off, can be life-threatening. While any hernia has the potential to become strangulated, most do not progress to this stage; instead, they manifest as a growing lump over time as the opening expands.

If you've noticed a lump, it's advisable to consult your doctor, who may recommend a visit to a surgeon if the lump becomes painful. Early medical evaluation is key to understanding the nature of the lump and determining the appropriate course of action.

Dr. Richard Tanner is a general surgeon with University Surgical Associates and a member of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society.

  photo  Dr. Richard Tanner

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