Hand Cysts and Tumors

If you’ve been diagnosed with a hand cyst or tumor, it’s natural to feel alarmed. We often associate tumors with scary medical conditions. But there is good news – almost all tumors or cysts on the wrist or hand are benign (non-cancerous). Some even go away on their own.

Understanding Hand Cysts and Tumors

The words “tumor” and “cyst” are sometimes used interchangeably. Both refer to an abnormal lump that grows on your wrist, hand or fingers. These lumps may be solid, or filled with fluid.

There are several types of hand cysts and tumors, including:

  • Ganglion cysts are the most common kind. They are fluid-filled, and usually grow on the back of the wrist. They can also form at the base or top of a finger joint.
  • Giant cell tumors are the second most common. They are solid, slow-growing masses that are often painless.
  • Epidermal inclusion cysts form right underneath the skin, often near the site of an old wound. They are filled with keratin, a type of protein found in skin cells.

Less common hand tumors include lipomas (fatty tumors), neuromas (nerve tumors) and fibromas (tumors that form out of connective tissue).

Hand cysts and tumors vary in size. Some are barely noticeable and cause few, if any, symptoms. Others grow into large, visible deformities that press on the nerves in your wrist or hand. Pressure on the nerve can cause pain, numbness or muscle weakness.

Treatment for Hand Cysts and Tumors at Mercy

If you don’t like the look of your unsightly tumor, or a cyst interferes with your wrist function, Mercy’s orthopedic physicians can help. Our hand specialists manage most hand cysts and tumors, even those considered uncommon.

Your treatment plan will depend on several factors. These include the size and location of your hand tumor, how quickly it’s grown and whether it’s causing pain or other symptoms. Treatments include:

  • Watching and waiting. If your benign hand tumor doesn’t bother you and hasn’t changed size, you may choose to leave it alone. You and your doctor will watch and make sure it doesn’t grow or start causing symptoms. Over time it may disappear on its own.
  • A brace or splintto limit movement in your wrist or hand. Hand cysts and tumors often grow larger with activity. Immobilizing your wrist or hand with a brace may cause the tumor to shrink, and can help take pressure off a painful nerve.
  • Aspiration. If your tumor is filled with fluid, your doctor may use a needle to drain it. This procedure is often combined with a steroid injection.
  • Orthopedic rehabilitation can help strengthen your wrist or hand and improve range of motion, especially if your tumor causes muscle weakness.
  • Excision surgery to completely remove the cyst or tumor. Surgery is often used as a last resort when other treatments don’t work. In some cases, cysts may reoccur. If this happens, your Mercy orthopedic physician will help you determine next steps.

If you’re bothered by your hand cyst or tumor, talk to your Mercy orthopedic physician about your treatment options. Together we’ll address all your needs, whether they’re functional or cosmetic.

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