Most tumors of the hand are benign. Cancers are rare. These tumors can develop from the skin, muscle, fat, tendons, nerves vessels or bone. The most common types of hand tumors are ganglion cyst and giant cell tumors of the tendon sheath. A ganglion cyst is a fluid filled mass that is frequently found in the joints of the hand or wrist. Giant cell tendon sheath tumors present as a solid lump on the hand or finger. While these types of tumors are not cancerous, they can be extremely painful and decrease hand function.
Cause of tumors of the hand is unclear, however trauma is thought to play a role in some. Repetitive motion injuries can cause inflammation leading to abnormal growth of cells. Occasionally skin cells or a foreign body can become trapped within the tissues resulting in tumor growth encapsulating the debris. Over time Arthritis can cause boney growths called bone spurs to form which can be hard and painful.
While most Hand tumors are benign the likelihood of cancer is a rare but real possibility.
Most Hand Tumors present as a visible lump on the wrist; hand or fingers. They can form gradually over time or appear suddenly on or below the surface of the skin. They may be soft to firm and may or may not move on palpation. Many tumors are painless and go undiagnosed until they actually interfere with hand function or become large in size. Tumors growing near a nerve or on the bone can be extremely painful and so are usually diagnosed earlier. Depending on location a hand tumor may affect joint mobility or may just be aesthetically displeasing.
The physician will require a detailed history including traumatic injuries, occupational hazards and family history. A complete physical examination of the extremity will then be performed. X ray, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and ultrasound are used to visualize the soft tissues for abnormalities.
Most hand tumors will require surgical excision to completely remove the mass and prevent recurrence. Once the mass is removed it is sent to a lab for pathology. This is the only way to determine whether the growth is benign or malignant. If non-cancerous, no other treatment (except possibly hand therapy) is required as the lump has already been removed.