Noticing an abnormal lump or mass on your hand or wrist can be alarming. What is this mass, and should you seek medical attention?
A mass is considered a tumor. A tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue in the body. The tumor cells lack the ability to regulate themselves which causes more cells to produce, hence the word mass. The word “tumor” is often associated with cancer; however, most hand and wrist tumors are not cancerous. Hand and wrist tumors are painless unless they are aligned on a nerve or are located in a region where they are easily irritated.
There are many types of hand and wrist tumors. Some are surface tumors, such as a mole or wart, while others occur underneath the skin in the soft tissue or bone. The most common hand or wrist tumor is a ganglion cyst which is a fluid-filled, pouch-like sac that forms beneath the skin near a joint or tendon. Ganglion cysts can appear and disappear and change in size. There are no concrete findings of why they form.
The second most common hand or wrist tumor is a giant cell tumor of the tendon sheath. They are a slow-growing, solid (not fluid-filled) lump that are typically not painful. They develop in a tendon sheath, which is the membrane or outer lining layer that surrounds the tendon. Trauma to the tendon sheath is thought to cause the stimulation of the abnormal growth.
An epidermal inclusion cyst is another common tumor of the hand or wrist. They form just underneath the skin and are filled with a yellow, waxy material called keratin. They can sometimes form due to irritation, or injury to the skin or hair follicles. Keratin is produced by skin cells and when skin cells get trapped under the surface of the skin, keratin is produced and forms a cyst. In some cases, the cyst may become inflamed or infected, causing pain.
Other less common forms of tumors include:
- Lipomas or fatty tumors
- Neuromas or nerve tumors
- Fibromas or connective tissue tumors
- Glomus tumors (found around the nail or fingertip in the dermis layer of the skin)
- Malignant or cancerous tumors
- In rare cases some hand and wrist tumors may be cancerous
Medical attention is advised to determine the type of tumor and to verify it is not cancerous. Through a thorough examination, the hand surgeons at Hand to Shoulder Center of Wisconsin will determine the type of tumor. X-rays may be taken to evaluate the bones, joints and soft tissue. Diagnosis and treatment options are discussed. Treatment may include, drainage or needle aspiration, surgical excision of the tumor or depending on the size and location, some patients choose to do nothing and simply live with it if it’s not cancerous.