Cysts and other growths in the wrist: What are they, and what should you do?

Finding bumps or lumps on your wrist can be frightening or puzzling. What do they signify? Are they cancerous?

It’s important to emphasize from the beginning that the vast majority of tumors or cysts that crop up from the interior of the wrist aren’t cancerous. It’s very rare for a cancer to emerge from the bones or ligaments of the wrist; if the growth emerging from deep tissue in your wrist is cancerous, it’s most likely a result of metastasis from a different kind of cancer in the body, most commonly lung cancer. However, a growth on the skin of the wrist could be melanoma, or skin cancer.

You should always get a wrist growth checked out. Doing so could rule out the possibility of cancer, giving you more peace of mind, and also address any problems caused by the growth if it looks unsightly or interferes with your wrist functioning.

What are some non-cancerous growths that may crop up from the interior of the wrist or the base of the hand?

Ganglion Cysts

The most common kind of growth originating in the wrist, and in the hands, is a ganglion cyst. They’re full of fluid and generally small, growing out of joints and tendons sheaths; the fluid that fills them, in fact, is the same kind that’s found lubricating your wrist joints and the interior of the sheath that surrounds the tendons in the wrist.

Usually, these cysts are painless and go away on their own. On the occasions when they are painful, it’s usually because they’re pressing on a nerve; they may also impede wrist movement. A simple surgery may get rid of the ganglion cyst while also reducing the chances of re-occurence, and there are also a few nonsurgical treatments you can discuss with your physician. As of now, there’s no clear way to prevent the formation of these cysts, because it’s unclear how they originate; it’s possible that they arise after some kind of trauma or repetitive stress in the wrist.

Giant Cell Tumor of the Tendon Sheath

These masses can show up in the hands, as well as the wrists, slowly growing out of the tendon sheath. They aren’t filled with fluid, and they can become painful. On the plus side, they’re usually removed easily by a simple surgery, though they may also re-occur afterwards. Though it’s not clear why they arise, some think they originate because of physical trauma to the affected area.

Carpal Bossing

These bony growths crop up at the base of the back of the hands, at or near the junction with the wrists. They may cause pain or irritation, particularly when they encroach onto the back of the wrist; sometimes they give the appearance of a fracture. If carpal bossing persists for a long time, it sometimes causes long-term damage to the area. Taking anti-inflammatory pain medications and wearing a wrist splint for certain activities can help you manage better if you’re experiencing pain; treatments include steroid injection and undergoing surgery to remove the growth.

The bottom line

Regardless of what kind of growth on the wrist you think you may have, it’s imperative to get it checked out, not only to ascertain whether there’s a more serious problem, but also to figure out as quickly as possible how you can manage or treat your condition.

Dr. John Knight
Dr. John Knight

Dr. Knight is a renowned hand, wrist and upper extremity surgeon with over 25 years of experience. Dr. Knight is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Fellowship trained. Dr Knight has appeared on CNN, The Doctors TV, Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Oxygen network and more.