Dr. Ekkehard Bonatz answers your questions about the lumps and bumps you may find on your hand or wrist.
I have been told I may need surgery for a tumor in my hand. What does that mean?
A “tumor” simply means there is a swelling that is not normally there, and your doctor feels it needs further examination. Sometimes it is referred to as a mass.
What kinds of tumors should I be concerned about?
Most tumors or masses on the hand and wrist are benign and are not cancer. Most commonly they are ganglion cysts. They are fluid-filled and can change in size. A giant cell tumor is a benign collection of tissue around a joint or a tendon. A thickening in the skin of the palm can also be a sign of Dupuytren’s contracture.
When should I see a hand surgeon about a tumor, growth or mass?
When the problem interferes enough with your hand function during the day or while enjoying a particular hobby, you may want to seek further advice. Many patients experience mild pain or discomfort, while others just notice a lump that wasn’t there before.
How will my doctor decide what to do about it?
Many growths around the hands and wrists can be left alone if you feel comfortable with your surgeon’s assurance that they are benign. If there are concerns about cancer, or if the problem is becoming too painful or otherwise too bothersome, your hand surgeon may obtain additional tests, such as an x-ray, an ultrasound examination or an MRI scan. Many tumors do not show up on x-rays.
Ekkehard Bonatz, M.D., Ph.D., is a partner at Southlake Orthopaedics in Birmingham and Hoover, AL. He specializes in hand and upper extremity surgery. He is also a faculty member of the hand and upper extremity fellowship program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His surgical training was at the Baptist Medical Centers in Birmingham and at UAB, where he completed his orthopaedic surgery training. He subsequently trained in hand and upper extremity, microsurgery, and reconstructive surgery at UAB.