Any abnormal lump or bump in the hand or wrist is considered a tumor. The term “tumor” does not necessarily mean it is malignant or that it is a cancer. In fact, most wrist and hand tumors are benign (not cancer).
Tumors can occur on the skin, such as a mole or a wart, or underneath the skin in the soft tissue or even the bone. Because there are so many types of tissue in the hand (e.g. skin, fat, ligaments, tendons, nerves, blood vessels, bone, etc.), there are many types of tumors that can occur. Only a few of them are seen commonly.
There are other less common types of tumors seen in the hand, including lipomas (fatty tumors), neuromas (nerve tumors), nerve sheath tumors, fibromas and glomus tumors, among others. Almost all are benign.
Foreign bodies, such as a splinter, can cause reactions that form bumps in the hand. Dupuytren’s Contracture may cause firm bumps in the hand, which are often confused with tumors (Figure 4). Finally, blood vessel growths can also be confused with other tumors.
A physical exam and review of your medical history by a hand surgeon can help to determine the type of wrist or hand tumor you may have. X-rays might be taken to evaluate the bones, joints and possibly the soft tissue. Further studies such as ultrasound, CT, MRI or bone scans may be done to help narrow down the diagnosis. Needle biopsy or incisional biopsy (cutting out a small sample of the tumor) may be considered if the surgeon wants to confirm the diagnosis before recommending treatment.
Typically, the most successful treatment is removing the tumor with surgery. This allows a pathologist to analyze it and to determine the type of tumor. Often, surgery is done on an outpatient basis.
Some patients may choose to do nothing and simply live with the tumor once they learn that it is non-cancerous. However, if the tumor changes (e.g. skin discoloration, pain, increased size) or if it causes other problems such as numbness or pain from pressure on a nearby nerve, then re-evaluation by a hand surgeon is recommended. You and your hand surgeon can choose the best treatment plan.
©2015 American Society for Surgery of the Hand
This content is written, edited and updated by hand surgeon members of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand.Find a hand surgeon near you.