What causes a palpable mass and what should I do about it?

Symptom Database

A palpable mass refers to a physical swelling or detectable growth in the body that can be felt or seen as a visible lump. Discovering a palpable mass can be a cause for concern, as it may indicate an underlying health issue. In this article, we will explore the various causes of a palpable mass and discuss what steps you should take if you discover one.

Causes of a Palpable Mass

There are several potential causes for a palpable mass, ranging from benign conditions to more serious health problems. It is important to note that only a medical professional can accurately diagnose the cause of a palpable mass. However, understanding some common causes can help you have a better idea of what to expect during your medical evaluation.

Benign Tumors

One possible cause of a palpable mass is a benign tumor. Benign tumors are non-cancerous growths that can develop in various parts of the body. They are typically slow-growing and do not spread to other areas. Examples of benign tumors include lipomas, which are fatty tumors, and fibroids, which are growths that develop in the uterus.


Cysts are another potential cause of a palpable mass. These are fluid-filled sacs that can form in different parts of the body. Cysts can vary in size and may or may not be painful. Common types of cysts include sebaceous cysts, which develop under the skin, and ovarian cysts, which can form on the ovaries.


Infections can also lead to the development of a palpable mass. When the body fights off an infection, it may create a localized area of inflammation and swelling. This can result in the formation of a visible lump or mass. Infections that can cause palpable masses include abscesses, which are pockets of pus, and swollen lymph nodes.

Inflammatory Conditions

Various inflammatory conditions can cause a palpable mass. These conditions involve chronic inflammation in specific areas of the body, leading to the formation of abnormal tissue growth. Examples of inflammatory conditions that can result in a palpable mass include rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease.

What Should You Do If You Discover a Palpable Mass?

If you discover a palpable mass, it is crucial to seek medical attention promptly. While it is natural to feel anxious or worried, remember that many palpable masses are benign and can be easily treated. Here are some steps you should take:

1. Schedule an Appointment with Your Healthcare Provider

The first step is to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. They will perform a thorough examination and may order additional tests, such as imaging scans or biopsies, to determine the cause of the palpable mass.

2. Provide Detailed Information

During your appointment, be prepared to provide detailed information about the mass, including when you first noticed it, any changes in size or appearance, and any associated symptoms such as pain or tenderness. This information will help your healthcare provider make an accurate diagnosis.

3. Follow Your Healthcare Provider’s Recommendations

Based on the examination and test results, your healthcare provider will recommend an appropriate course of action. This may include monitoring the mass over time, further diagnostic tests, or treatment options such as medication, surgery, or other interventions. It is essential to follow their recommendations for the best possible outcome.

4. Seek a Second Opinion if Necessary

If you have concerns about the diagnosis or treatment plan provided by your healthcare provider, do not hesitate to seek a second opinion. Another medical professional may offer a different perspective or provide additional insights that can help you make an informed decision about your health.


Discovering a palpable mass can be a worrisome experience, but it is important to remember that many causes are benign and treatable. By seeking medical attention promptly and following your healthcare provider’s recommendations, you can ensure that the appropriate steps are taken to diagnose and address the underlying cause. Remember, only a medical professional can accurately diagnose the cause of a palpable mass, so it is crucial to consult with them for an accurate evaluation and personalized treatment plan.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
Add a comment