An adnexal mass is a growth that develops in the vicinity of the uterus, typically in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or nearby connective tissues. These growths can consist of either solid tissue or fluid-filled sacs. They can occur at any age, and many of them resolve on their own within a few months. While most adnexal tumors are non-cancerous, there is a possibility of some being cancerous.
It is called adnexal tumors because they develop in the area of the uterus known as the adnexa, which also refers to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and ligaments that support the reproductive organs of women.
The diagnosis of adnexal tumors involves a thorough physical examination, imaging tests, and, in some cases, surgery. The treatment for adnexal tumors varies depending on the specific location and types of cells involved.
The following symptoms can be associated with adnexal masses:
- Pelvic pain.
- Urinary urgency, frequency, or incontinence
- Abnormal bleeding from the uterus.
- Irregular periods, particularly in individuals who are premenopausal.
- Gastrointestinal disorders.
- Pain during sexual intercourse.
People with adnexal tumors may remain asymptomatic for extended periods of time.
Adnexal masses can arise from various factors, both related to the female reproductive system as well as other systems such as the urinary or digestive systems. While the majority of these tumors typically originate from the female reproductive system, they can also originate in the urinary or digestive systems.
Adnexal masses, which are typically related to issues in the female reproductive system, have several common causes. These include:
- Ovarian cancer: Malignant (cancerous) tumors in the ovaries that can grow and spread to other areas of the body. Ovarian cancer is one of the most prevalent types of cancer in women.
- Ovarian cysts: Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that develop on the ovaries. In most cases, they do not cause any pain and many people never experience any symptoms. Ovarian cysts are the most common type of cysts.
- Noncancerous ovarian tumors: Abnormal cell growth in the ovaries results in solid masses, occasionally with cystic components. These tumors are typically benign and do not spread to nearby tissues or other parts of the body.
- Ectopic pregnancy: When a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus, such as the fallopian tube. Ectopic pregnancies cannot be carried to term and can cause internal bleeding and intense pain. If left untreated, they can be life-threatening.
- Broad ligament leiomyoma: A leiomyoma (benign tumor) located next to the ovary and fallopian tube, often mistaken for an adnexal mass.
- Tubo ovarian abscess: Infections that affect the vaginal system can result in inflammation of the ovary, fallopian tube, and, on rare occasions, other organs including the intestine or bladder.
- Hydrosalpinx: A hydrosalpinx is an accumulation of fluid in the fallopian tube. Hydrosalpinx can cause pelvic discomfort or infertility even though it frequently shows no symptoms at all.
Adnexal tumors can affect women of all ages, but they are most commonly found during the years when women are able to have children.