While any lump or bump you find on your hand or wrist can be considered a “tumor,” it does not mean that the tumor is cancerous. There are many different types of hand tumors, and most are benign, which means non-cancerous. Hand tumors can be something as common as a wart or a mole, which are on top of the skin, or something more uncommon that is beneath the skin. Here are some examples of common hand tumors:
1. Ganglion Cysts
These are some of the most common tumors in the hand, and the cause is unknown. Ganglion cysts are seen frequently in the wrist but can also appear at the base of your fingers or around the finger joints. The bump is typically filled with fluid, and it will feel very firm. It may or may not be painful. This type of tumor is not cancerous. If the bump is not painful and is not affecting your daily life, your surgeon may recommend to leave it alone. Other treatment options may include aspiration (puncturing with a needle) or surgically removing it.
Ganglion cysts are lumps in the hand and wrist that are fairly common. They can occur in people of all ages, and the cause is unknown. Sometimes they are painful, but many times they will not affect you. Here’s how to know that you have a ganglion cyst and not a wart or different type of lump:
- The lump may be filled with clear fluid or gel.
- The lump will be oval or round in shape.
- Light is often able to pass through the lump (transillumination).
Your ganglion cyst may change in size over time or even disappear completely. Some are soft and some are firm. To treat a ganglion cyst, sometimes it may be appropriate to simply do nothing. Other times, your surgeon may recommend a splint, medication, aspiration (removing the fluid with a needle), or surgery.
Talk to your hand surgeon about the best treatment option for you. Learn more about ganglion cysts at www.HandCare.org.
A carpometacarpal boss, also known as a CMC boss or “bossing,” is a lump that appears on the back of the hand. It is typically in line with the pointer or middle finger. The exact cause of it is unknown, although sometimes they can arise from a traumatic injury or repetitive wrist motion that can happen during things like golf.
Here are some signs that you have a CMC boss:
- You notice a lump on the back of your hand
- It appeared between the ages of 20 and 40
- You feel pain when moving the wrist up or down
- You feel a snapping sensation when moving the wrist
Dr. Steven H. Goldberg answers your questions about Dupuytren’s contracture.
I noticed a new lump on the palm of my hand, and I noticed my tendon is visible and tight where I can’t fully straighten my finger. What could this be?
Dupuytren’s contracture, or fibromatosis, is a condition that can cause lumps on the palm of the hand; it also causes cords on the palm or fingers. The cord is not the tendon but rather a thickening of the fascia, a normal structure below the skin. The cord contains myofibroblasts which have a muscle-like quality that pull on the skin causing puckering, dimpling, and bending of the finger. The lumps and cords can also occur on the soles of the feet. Some people are more likely to have this disease due to genetics.
How do you know this lump is Dupuytren’s and not cancer?
Most lumps in the palm are not cancerous. Skin cancers are more common in sun-exposed areas, so a lump on the back of the hand is more likely to be cancerous compared to one on the palm. Dupuytren’s lumps in the palm of the hand most commonly form in the ring and small finger. Skin puckering or dimpling can occur, and you typically can’t fully straighten your fingers. This loss of motion is less common with other masses or tumors. Dupuytren’s lumps are typically not painful and usually do not grow much. A more worrisome bump or lump is often painful, can have rapid growth, and can either be painful at night or when resting. If a patient is very concerned about the lump, it can be surgically biopsied to confirm it is Dupuytren’s contracture.
A ganglion cyst is a lump in the hand or wrist that is not uncommon. The cysts can vary in size or even disappear completely, and they may or may not be painful. Usually, they are round-shaped and can be firm, and it may be painful to put pressure on the bump. Treatment for ganglion cysts depends on the location of the cyst and your personal situation. Here are some options your hand surgeon may recommend:
- Observation: Sometimes, doing nothing is the best option, as the cyst may go away.
- Splints: Material used to support the area.
- Anti-inflammatory medication: This may decrease pain during your daily activities. It can be used along with a splint.
- Aspiration: Using a needle to remove fluid from the cyst.
- Surgery: Completely removing the cyst.
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.