A mass or abdominal lump on the lower left abdomen can most commonly be caused by skin conditions like cysts, abscess, or growth of fatty tissue known as lipoma. If you have a lump that causes pain on the left side of the abdomen, you may also have a hernia or an ovarian cyst if you are female.
Lower left abdominal lump explained
Everyone has likes and dislikes about their body, and the abdominal area is no exception. Regardless of its size or shape, your abdomen allows you to digest your favorite foods while ridding your body of toxins. Feeling a lump or bump in this area can be concerning, as it may be hard to pinpoint what is causing it.
Your abdomen can be separated into four quadrants, in which the left lower quadrant of the abdomen specifically contains the terminal part of the colon, the ureter of the left kidney, and the iliac fossa (part of the hip bone and pelvis). The iliac fossa is a gateway to the reproductive organs in both men and women.
Common characteristics of a lump in the lower left abdomen
See this here for a visual representation of these multiple components. Due to its complexity, the lower left abdomen is susceptible to multiple conditions that can have a wide array of symptoms. A lump in this area can be upsetting as it is often associated with symptoms such as:
- Pain or discomfort
- Tenderness to the touch
- Changes in appearance: The lump may undergo changes during activities such as standing, coughing or straining.
- A burning or aching sensation
New lumps and bumps in the abdomen can be the initial sign of a cancerous process. Lumps that are hard and rigid and grow in size over time raise suspicion for a tumor. Lumps in the lower left abdomen that are easily mobile and can be pushed back in with manual pressure are less concerning. However, if you are also experiencing fatigue, unexplained weight loss, or bloating, you should seek treatment.
A lump on the lower left abdomen can be associated with additional unpleasant symptoms such as:
If the lump seems to disappear
The lump on your lower left abdomen may not be directly visible. Sometimes it may be easier to feel when pressing deeply on its suspected location. If you experience some of the symptoms above but do not see a mass in your abdomen, do not assume there isn't a problem.
Given the complexity of the lower left abdomen and the organs it contains, it is important to make an appointment with your physician as soon as you notice any of these symptoms.
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What can cause a lump on the lower left abdomen?
The left lower quadrant of the abdomen is a complex interplay of structures. Therefore, inflammation, obstruction, cancer, or injury to any of its components can result in an abdominal lump. See your physician promptly in order to get the appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
A hernia occurs when part of an organ pushes through an opening or weakness in the muscles or tissues that surround it. The protruding organ or tissue can result in a noticeable lump or bulge in the area. Hernias can occur in both men and women in many different ways. Several types of hernias and their likely causes are listed below.
- Inguinal: In men, this type of hernia often protrudes through a specific structure in the lower abdomen called the inguinal canal, where the spermatic cord enters the scrotum.
- Surgical: A surgical incision can create a weakness in the abdominal wall. After surgery, the abdominal wall is closed; however, weight gain, pregnancy, or excessive activity too soon after the surgical procedure can result in an increase in abdominal pressure and stretching of the incision. This makes it easy for contents to protrude through the incision.
- Sports: A sports hernia is a painful injury of the soft tissue that occurs from sudden changes of direction or intense twisting movements during soccer, basketball, or wrestling, for example. Even though a sports hernia may lead to a traditional abdominal hernia, it is a different injury.
The reproductive organs in both men and women are within or very close to the lower left quadrant of the abdomen. Growths in these organs — either benign or malignant — can often result in palpable and visible lumps in the lower left abdomen.
- Males: In males, the freely mobile testes can develop cancerous growths that can be felt in the lower left abdomen.
- Females: In females, the ovaries often lie within the lower quadrants of the abdomen. Not only are the ovaries susceptible to cancer, but they can also develop cysts that can grow very large and cause pain in addition to a lump.
Inflammation of the lower left quadrant of the abdomen can result in a lump.
- Infection: Infection of the large intestine by gastrointestinal organisms can cause the formation of abscesses — or swollen areas of pus.
- Dermatologic conditions: Some inflammatory dermatologic conditions are likely in certain areas of the body. For example, a painful rash caused by a virus known as shingles, can localize to the lower left abdomen and cause lumps and a rash as well as severe pain and itchiness. Furthermore, lumps in the skin or subcutaneous fat, known as cysts and lipomas, can occur in the lower left abdomen.
Trauma to the lower abdomen from a direct blow or motor vehicle accident can cause a lump if there is any severe bruising.
Lipoma is a word that translates as "fatty tumor," but a lipoma is not cancer. It is simply a growth of fat between the muscle layer and the skin above it.
The exact cause is not known. The condition does run in families and is associated with other unusual syndromes such as adiposis dolorosa, which is similar. Lipomas most often appear after age 40.
Symptoms include a soft, easily moveable lump beneath the skin, about two inches across. A lipoma is painless unless its growth is irritating the nerves around it. They are most often found on the back, neck, and abdomen, and sometimes the arms and upper legs.
It is a good idea to have any new or unusual growth checked by a medical provider, just to make certain it is benign.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination, biopsy, and imaging such as ultrasound or CT scan.
Most of the time, treatment is not necessary unless the lipoma is unsightly or is interfering with other structures. It can be removed through surgery or liposuction.
Top Symptoms: skin-colored groin bump, marble sized groin lump, small groin lump
Symptoms that always occur with lipoma: skin-colored groin bump
Urgency: Wait and watch
A cyst is a small sac or lump, filled with fluid, air, fat, or other material, that begins to grow somewhere in the body for no apparent reason. A skin cyst is one that forms just beneath the skin.
It's believed that skin cysts form around trapped keratin cells – the cells that form the relatively tough outer layer of the skin.
These cysts are not contagious.
Anyone can get a skin cyst, but they are most common in those who are over age 18, have acne, or have injured the skin.
Symptoms include the appearance of a small, rounded lump under the skin. Cysts are normally painless unless infected, when they will be reddened and sore and contain pus.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination. A small cyst can be left alone, though if it is unsightly or large enough to interfere with movement it can be removed in a simple procedure done in a doctor's office. An infected cyst must be treated so that the infection does not spread.
Top Symptoms: skin-colored armpit bump, marble sized armpit lump, small armpit lump
Symptoms that always occur with skin cyst: skin-colored armpit bump
Urgency: Wait and watch
During her reproductive years, a woman's ovaries release a single egg cell each month. But sometimes the egg remains on the surface of the ovary, where the follicle that enclosed it continues to grow. It then becomes a fluid-filled ovarian cyst.
Ovarian cysts may be caused by hormonal imbalances; by endometriosis tissue, if it attaches to the ovary; and by severe pelvic infections that spread to the ovaries. Cysts may also form during pregnancy.
Small ovarian cysts often cause no symptoms. Larger cysts may cause pelvic pain, backache, unexplained weight gain, abnormal vaginal bleeding, and/or pain during sex. Ovarian cysts are almost never a form of cancer.
Sudden, severe abdominal pain could indicate a ruptured cyst. This is a medical emergency and the patient should go to an emergency room or call 9-1-1.
Diagnosis is made through ultrasound.
Hormonal birth control, such as the pill, injection, or patch, prevents ovulation and therefore prevents the formation of cysts. Surgery to remove the cyst may be necessary in some cases.
Top Symptoms: stomach bloating, vaginal bleeding, pelvis pain, lower abdominal pain, lower back pain
Urgency: Primary care doctor
A skin abscess is a large pocket of pus that has formed just beneath the skin. It is caused by bacteria getting under the skin, usually through a small cut or scratch, and beginning to multiply. The body fights the invasion with white blood cells, which kill some of the infected tissue but form pus within the cavity that remains.
Symptoms include a large, red, swollen, painful lump of pus anywhere on the body beneath the skin. There may be fever, chills, and body aches from the infection.
If not treated, there is the risk of an abscess enlarging, spreading, and causing serious illness.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination.
A small abscess may heal on its own, through the body's immune system. But some will need to be drained or lanced in a medical provider's office so that the pus can be cleaned out. Antibiotics are usually prescribed.
Keeping the skin clean, and using only clean clothes and towels, will help to make sure that the abscess does not recur.
Top Symptoms: rash with bumps or blisters, red rash, red skin bump larger than 1/2 cm in diameter, pus-filled rash, rash
Symptoms that always occur with skin abscess: rash with bumps or blisters
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Tumor of the digestive tract
Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) are a very rare type of tumor that originates in the walls of the stomach and small intestine. While these tumors can cause symptoms such as stomach pain and bloody feces, 1/4 of cases have no symptoms and are discovered accidentally.
Rarity: Ultra rare
Top Symptoms: fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Colonic neoplasm means "new tissue" growing in the colon, or large intestine. This neoplasm may be either benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancer.)
The exact cause of any cancer remains unknown. Risk factors seem to be:
Being over fifty years of age.
- Family history of the disease.
- A high-fat, low-fiber diet, typical in the modern world
- Chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon such as Crohn's disease.
- Smoking and alcohol use.
- Diabetes, obesity, and inactivity.
The earliest symptoms are usually polyps, small growths within the colon which can be detected on colonoscopy and removed before they can become cancerous. Later symptoms may be unexplained fatigue; change in bowel habits; persistent abdominal discomfort such as gas or cramps; blood in stool; or rectal bleeding.
Diagnosis is made through colonoscopy and sometimes blood testing.
Treatment is done through surgery, which may be minor or extensive; and through chemotherapy with radiation therapy, usually done before and after surgery. Supportive care to keep the patient comfortable is also an important part of treatment.
Top Symptoms: fatigue, stomach bloating, stool changes, diarrhea, constipation
Urgency: Primary care doctor
A furuncle, also called a boil, is infection of a hair follicle. The infection forms under the skin at the root of the hair and may occur anywhere on the body.
The infection is caused by bacteria, most often Staphylococcus aureus or "staph." Irritation caused by clothes or anything else rubbing the skin can cause the skin to break down and allow bacteria to enter.
Staph bacteria are found everywhere. Frequent and thorough handwashing, and otherwise maintaining cleanliness, will help to prevent its spread.
Most susceptible are those with a weakened immune system; diabetes; and other skin infections.
Symptoms include a single bump under the skin that is swollen, painful, and red, and contains pus.
It is important to treat the boil, since infection can spread into the bloodstream and travel throughout the body.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination and sometimes fluid sample from the boil.
Treatment may involve incision and drainage of the infection, followed by creams to apply to the site of the boil and/or a course of antibiotic medicine.
Top Symptoms: pink or red facial bump, small facial lump, painful facial bump, marble sized facial lump, constant skin changes
Symptoms that always occur with boil (furuncle): pink or red facial bump
Symptoms that never occur with boil (furuncle): fever
A dermatofibroma is a common skin growth that usually appears on the lower legs, but may appear anywhere on the body. These growths are benign (noncancerous). Dermatofibromas are most common in adults and are rarely found in children.
Symptoms include a hard, raised growth that is red, pink, ...
How to treat a lump on the lower left abdomen
It is important to make an appointment with your physician for an appropriate diagnosis and the best course of treatment. Depending on the cause of your symptoms, your physician may suggest:
- Surgery: If you have a hernia, your physician may recommend open or non-invasive surgery to relieve discomfort and prevent complications. However, if your hernia is not causing you significant pain or discomfort, your physician may suggest watchful waiting. Some dermatologic conditions such as cysts or neurofibromas can also be surgically removed.
- Antibiotics: If your condition is caused by bacteria your physician may prescribe specific antibiotics.
- Cancer treatment: If your lump is cancerous, your physician will discuss treatment options including surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.
FAQs about lump on the lower left abdomen
Will a lump on the left lower abdomen affect my sexual function or reproductive capacity?
Lumps that involve the reproductive organs of men and women can have a negative effect on sexual function. For example, ovarian cysts in women can often be associated with pain during sexual intercourse. In the case of reproductive cancers that require treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation, you may have to have a conversation with your physician about the future of your reproductive capacity. Fortunately, there have been many strides in the fields of oncofertility and preservation of reproductive capacity during cancer treatment.
Can I still exercise with a lump on my left lower abdomen?
Exercise is acceptable if you are cautious and avoid irritating the abdominal tissues or increasing intra-abdominal pressure. You should always consult your physician before exercising with this condition. Low-intensity or low-impact exercises such as dancing, walking, or water aerobics may be good options. However, activities such as heavy weightlifting can cause you to strain and increase pressure in the abdomen, and thus further bulging.
When will the lump on my left lower abdomen resolve?
This depends on the cause. Lumps that are treated with surgical removal will require a certain amount of time to heal. Cancerous lumps will have a completely different timeline.
Is a lump on the left lower abdomen dangerous?
Complications of hernias, known as incarcerated or strangulated hernias, are considered life-threatening. Emergency care is required. A hernia is incarcerated when it becomes trapped in the abdominal wall. This is dangerous because it can wrap around itself and cut off blood flow from the trapped tissue. When this occurs, this creates a strangulated hernia, which can have life-threatening consequences. Symptoms of these conditions include nausea and/or vomiting, fever, pain that is sudden and increases in intensity, inability to pass gas, severe tenderness when you touch your abdomen or swelling of the abdomen.
Will the lump on my left lower abdomen spread to the other side?
Most lumps in the lower abdomen do not spread in this manner. Even if the lump is due to an infection or inflammation, spreading is unlikely. If you experience lumps that spread throughout your body you should make an appointment with your doctor promptly.
Questions your doctor may ask about lump on the lower left abdomen
- What color is the bump?
- How would you describe the location of your abdominal lump/bump the best?
- Do you feel pain when you touch the bump?
- Any fever today or during the last week?
Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.
- Palpable asymptomatic abdominal masses. iKnowledge. Updated February 13, 2015. Clinical Gate Link
- Ahmed T, Hussain MM, Ahmed SU. A 30 year old female with lower abdominal lump. Mymensingh Medical Journal. 2011;20(1):138-144. NCBI Link
- Inguinal hernia. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. June 2014. NIDDK Link
- Umbilical hernia. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Johns Hopkins Medicine Link
- Vorvick LJ. Abdominal mass. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated December 10, 2016. MedlinePlus Link