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How much should I worry about this lump?
January 1, 2014 1:47 AM   Subscribe

I’m going to have it looked at within the next few days, but what might this lump at my belly button be, and how worried should I be about it? Freaking myself out with Google.

This afternoon, I discovered an oblong lump, about the size of a large hazelnut, exactly next to my belly button (left upper side). It’s fairly deep, perhaps 1-2 cm below the skin, and feels sore and tender when I touch it. It’s not visible by looking at the skin. No surface skin irritation of any kind there, now or in the past. No discoloration. Having bothered it, I can kind of feel it when I walk or shift my torso.

I feel otherwise fine. No nausea, headache, sweating, fever, or suchlike symptoms (other than wanting to hurl when I read about aneurisms). No other abdominal pains (unlike the person in this question). No recent strain or heavy lifting.

Female, mid-30s, 130 lbs (stable for almost four years after deliberate weight loss; carried more than that for a while, maxed out at 195 lbs a decade ago). Not pregnant now or ever. Long-time smoker (quitting’s on the list). No personal history of high blood pressure (parents have it).

What are the odds it’s a cyst? A hernia? An aneurism (preferred response: “oh, that’s highly unlikely!”)? There’s no pulsing feeling. My lower back is kind of achy, but in a way that’s typical for me at this time of the month.

Peeked into a walk-in clinic this evening, but it was sardine city, and I felt otherwise ok so figured it could wait. (I thought it might be a cyst or something; later read about other things it could be.) Reasonable bet to wait to see my GP after the 2nd (don’t know when in the week I could get an appointment)? Or should I try the walk-in or urgent care/minor injuries (where I’d wait for ages; am not sure they have the equipment to check for things)? I gather an aneurism (the thing I’m worrying about) would be likelier to happen to an older person, or someone currently dealing with weight issues, is that right?

I'm in Ontario, Canada (re 'who should I see'). Haven't called Telehealth Ontario, because I think their algorithm might advise them to tell me to go to emergency, which I am sure will be full of people who need, you know, emergency care. And if this is a cyst or a swollen gland, like I hope it (probably?) is, I have no business wasting people's time.
posted by cotton dress sock to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
IANAD, but in your shoes I would call Telehealth. If the algorithm tells them you should go to emergency, that is because it might be something serious. Don't take the risk. You might well be one of those people who requires emergency care.
posted by rpfields at 3:24 AM on January 1

I think their algorithm might advise them to tell me to go to emergency, which I am sure will be full of people who need, you know, emergency care. And if this is a cyst or a swollen gland, like I hope it (probably?) is, I have no business wasting people's time.

The triage nurse at Emergency will certainly know more about weird abdominal lumps than you do, and will therefore be in a far better position to make an informed judgement about where to put you in the queue. It might actually not be appropriate to stay at the extreme end of that line indefinitely.
posted by flabdablet at 3:26 AM on January 1 [2 favorites]

It could well be something benign, like a cyst. Sounds like it's appeared fairly swiftly, is a bit sore... I had a cyst (not in the same location as whatever you have) that behaved very like that. Of course it could be something serious too but one thing I've learned from long experience is that there are a truly surprising number of "sore mysterious lump" conditions that are benign, so try to stay chipper, and yes, get it checked out ASAP. All mysterious lumps must be checked out, just in case. Don't put it off.

By the way, and you know this, if you Google almost any medical symptom you will get lots of hits telling you that it might be cancer and you're going to die. I have stopped Googling my medical symptoms, and I recommend that.
posted by Decani at 3:28 AM on January 1 [2 favorites]

Could be a hernia, but a hernia is rarely an emergency. Could be constipation. Call a doctor whenever normal business hours resume after New Year's, if the lump is still there, and stop Googling.
posted by elizeh at 6:02 AM on January 1 [2 favorites]

Seems like you're worried about using up resources, but it also seems that you are NOT qualified to determine how much care you need at the moment. Call the telehealth nurse line and let THEM make the determination. Sure, if you end up in the ER with a non-emergent issue you'll feel silly, but isn't that better than not going and having things End Horribly? Just call and let the algorithm make the determination.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 7:40 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]

Even if Telehealth tells you to go to emergency, it's still up to you to go or not. They will just help you make a more informed decision.

For what it's worth, they usually tell me to go to emergency (and I usually do) but they have often told my partner it's okay to wait a day or two to see a doctor. So they do have algorithms that don't result in an emergency recommendation! (I was skeptical for a while too.)

I think you should call them. This is exactly what they're here for.
posted by heatherann at 7:53 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]

IANAD, i have never been to med school, but...

this is almost certainly not an emergency. don't worry about aneurisms, they're only an emergency in the brain or on a major blood vessel. i've never heard of anyone dying from a belly button aneurism. there would have been a memorable headline along the way, something like...

party in disarray week before election

overwhelming odds it's a cyst or benign growth. the very low-percentage high hazard card would be a malignant, metastatic tumor, which usually happens in the breast, the ovary or the prostate, right? not in the belly button.

i wrote this comment to provide reassurance, not medical advice, because i am unfit to provide medical advice. have your GP look at it as soon as he/she can fit you in, and happy new year.
posted by bruce at 12:09 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]

Best answers for all, thank you!

heatherann, exactly – whenever I’ve called, they’ve told me to go to emerg. I honestly thought it was a liability thing. But I did call, following everyone’s good advice, and the (lovely) nurse told me to see a doc within 24 hours (not emerg!! ☺ ). I went to the walk-in (empty!), and the doc there thought it might be a hernia -- having an ultrasound tomorrow to see for sure – and that the chance is “0%, not .01, 0%” it is an aneurysm. And I am slightly thrilled (but more embarrassed) that once again, I have cheated Google-predicted death. (Who gets a hernia in their thirties, though? What. Anyway -- it’s not a belly button aneurysm!)

(Bruce, I was also told, no coughing or laughing, in case it is a hernia. But best answer also because, excellent.)

Staying away from self-diagnosis evermore. Thanks again.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:22 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]

And, happy new year! And, congratulations, American friends, on now being able to freely and fearlessly pursue lines of logic such as mine. To your health :)
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:32 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]

Regarding coughing and laughing, and sneezing too as well as any kind of straining (e.g. bowel movements), although it's best to avoid, you can brace yourself if you need to do those things. Something as simple as the palm of your hand placed firmly against the lump when you cough is pretty effective, though you can also use a pillow if that makes you more comfortable.
posted by telegraph at 1:59 PM on January 1

Thank you, telegraph.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:25 PM on January 1

Hi, I am the person who posted the question you linked to. It does sound really similar to what my boyfriend experienced, minus the constipation/gas stuff, which I don't think was really related to the lump (we had just traveled cross country and had been eating pretty poorly).

He ended up having a mild hernia that didn't even need any type of surgery. Hernias are not necessarily caused by a major, memorable exertion, so just because you haven't had any recent strain that you can think of doesn't mean it's not a hernia.

I would get to a doctor as soon as you can -- not emergency care necessarily, but maybe you could give urgent care another try tomorrow if it's looking like it will take awhile to get to your GP. A big reason to get in soon is simply for peace of mind. Get it figured out soon and get on with your life.

Good luck and good health in the new year!
posted by imalaowai at 7:08 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]

Dr. Google's bedside manner sucks.
posted by flabdablet at 8:04 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]

Update: I got the report from the walk-in back today – there’s a mass of something, still don’t know what it is (hernia, cyst, something else). They do know it's not my intestines playing peek-a-boo. They couldn’t see the abdominal wall (no explanation for that – flab? Bad view?) and recommend a CT scan in 6 months if it doesn’t go away, the thinking being, I guess, that ‘wait and see’ is better than ‘cut and see’. A friend, though, thought it felt weird (hard) and thinks a 2nd opinion might be in order…. Will get my actual GP to feel me up at the next opportunity. But I feel chilled out, because none of those options will kill me on the order of hours, if ever.

Thanks again for the midnight hand-holding :)
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:03 PM on January 7

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