An adnexal mass forms near the uterus — in the ovaries, fallopian tubes or surrounding connective tissues. Most adnexal tumors are benign (noncancerous), but they can be malignant (cancerous). Many adnexal masses go away on their own, but some require treatment, which may include surgery.
An adnexal (ad-nek-suhl) mass is a growth that develops around the uterus, usually in your ovaries, fallopian tubes and neighboring connective tissues. Some adnexal tumors are fluid-filled, while others are solid. They can appear at any age, and most of them go away on their own within a few months. They’re called adnexal tumors because they appear in the adnexa of the uterus. The term “adnexa” refers to the ovaries, fallopian tubes and ligaments that secure the female reproductive organs.
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Uterine polyps form inside the uterine lining, while adnexal tumors usually form in the ovaries, fallopian tubes or connective tissues surrounding the uterus. Both conditions can cause similar symptoms, such as irregular menstrual periods.
Adnexal tumors affect women of all ages, but they most commonly occur during the childbearing years.
In the United States, approximately 5% to 10% of women will develop an adnexal mass at some point in their lifetime.
No. Most adnexal tumors are benign (noncancerous). But a small percentage of 15% to 20% are malignant (cancerous). In general, postmenopausal people are at a higher risk for malignant adnexal tumors compared to premenopausal people.
Adnexal mass symptoms may include:
In many cases, people with adnexal tumors don’t experience any symptoms.
Adnexal masses can be caused by numerous gynecologic and non-gynecologic factors. Most commonly, the tumors originate from the female reproductive system. But they can also originate in the urinary or digestive systems.
Most adnexal masses are caused by problems with the female reproductive system. The most common causes include:
These masses usually originate in the urinary or gastrointestinal systems. Common types include adnexal tumors of the colon and appendix. It’s also possible for breast cancer and colon cancer to metastasize (spread) to the pelvis, resulting in adnexal tumors.
Adnexal tumors are most often detected during routine examinations. They may also be discovered during pelvic examinations or ultrasounds. Once you receive a diagnosis, your healthcare provider can run additional lab and imaging tests to determine what caused the adnexal mass. In some cases, you may be asked to take a pregnancy test to rule out ectopic pregnancy.
Not always. In many cases, adnexal masses aren’t harmful and will eventually resolve on their own. However, if they cause uncomfortable symptoms, then surgical removal may be recommended. If intense pain or fevers are experienced, you should contact your health care provider immediately to assess for ovarian torsion, which is a surgical emergency.
Treatment depends on the specific case. If the adnexal mass is benign and isn’t causing any pain, then your healthcare provider will likely monitor the situation with periodic imaging tests. However, if the tumor grows, if you have increased pain, internal bleeding, or if it is cancerous, surgery will be recommended.
There is currently no way to prevent adnexal tumors. However, with early detection, you can reduce your risk for associated complications. If you’re diagnosed with an adnexal tumor, it’s important to see your healthcare provider for frequent follow-ups. Medications can sometimes be offered to decrease the risk of recurrent ovarian cysts.
If you have an adnexal mass, your healthcare provider will work with you to design a personalized treatment plan. Oftentimes, adnexal tumors go away on their own. Your provider will likely monitor the tumor with frequent imaging tests to make sure it doesn’t grow. If your adnexal mass causes painful symptoms, or if it’s cancerous, your healthcare provider will recommend surgical removal.
The majority of adnexal tumors aren’t dangerous, and they may even go away on their own over time. In rare instances, the tumor may be cancerous. In these cases, adnexal masses could be life-limiting. If you have increased pain or fever, it is important to be evaluated to assess for ovarian torsion.
The majority of adnexal masses are not urgent, but if you experience intense pain, fevers, or dizziness then you should seek urgent medical evaluation to assess for ectopic pregnancy, adnexal torsion, tubo-ovarian abscess or a ruptured ovarian cyst.
If you’ve been diagnosed with an adnexal tumor, you should see your healthcare provider for frequent follow-ups. During these visits, they will check to see if the tumor has grown. Additionally, you should call your provider any time you develop painful or uncomfortable symptoms.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Most adnexal masses are noncancerous and resolve themselves in a few months. In some cases, however, an adnexal tumor can cause pelvic pain, bloating, difficulty urinating and other problems. As with most conditions, early detection is key. Your healthcare provider can tell you if you need treatment.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/03/2021.
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