Hand Tumors and Cysts

A tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue in the body. Tumor cells lack the ability to regulate themselves, thus producing more cells, which can form a mass. While many associate tumors with cancer, hand tumors typically are not cancerous. The most common hand tumor is the giant cell tumor of tendon sheath. This can be very painful and occurs on the palm side of a digit, usually on the middle or index finger. The hard, solid mass makes it difficult to fully bend the affected finger.

A cyst, by contrast, is a fluid-filled growth commonly found on hand or wrist joints. It causes pain by obstructing movement and crowding the joint to which it is attached. Most hand and wrist cysts are ganglion cysts, caused by irritation to a joint followed by joint fluid leaking into a bubble-like mass. It can occur in people of all ages.

While not usually an indicator of serious medical issues, cysts and tumors in the hand can be painful and debilitating. The Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush (MOR) Hand, Wrist & Elbow Institute physicians are experienced in the most advanced treatment procedures.

What are the symptoms of a hand tumor or cyst?

Symptoms of a hand tumor or cyst include:

  • Pain in affected area (though some may not be painful)
  • Pain worsens with movement
  • Swelling or lump where growth is that appears gradually or suddenly
  • Lump may be hard or soft
  • Loss of joint flexibility
  • Weakness in finger or wrist
  • Numbness or tingling in hand

If symptoms persist or interfere with lifestyle, contact a specialist at the MOR Hand, Wrist & Elbow Institute for an evaluation.

Who is likely to get a hand tumor or cyst?

While it is not certain what causes hand tumors and cysts, some factors are known to increase risk of incidence:

  • Exposure to radiation
  • Arthritis
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Poor nutrition
  • Certain activities in which pressure and strain are put on joints, such as gymnastics or tennis

How is a hand tumor or cyst diagnosed?

Close visual examination by an experienced physician and a review of patient history are usually all that is needed to diagnose hand tumors or cysts. Sometimes an X-ray may be recommended to eliminate other possible conditions.

What are the treatments for a hand tumor or cyst?

Non-surgical Treatment Options

  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Splint
  • Drainage of cyst fluid with a needle (aspiration)

Surgical Treatment Options

The physicians at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush Hand, Wrist & Elbow Institute are experienced in treating hand tumors and cysts surgically. This is frequently recommended for giant cell tumors of tendon sheath and ganglion cysts, which can recur despite needle aspiration. Depending on the size and location of a tumor or cyst, surgery can be performed using localized anesthesia on an outpatient basis. A cortisone injection may also be used at the growth site to prevent reoccurrence. Many ganglion cysts at the wrist can now be excised utilizing minimally invasive wrist arthroscopy, thus limiting surgical morbidity. Most patients will be allowed immediate range of motion without restrictions immediately following excision of a mass about the hand and wrist.