Hand Cysts & Tumors: Symptoms, Care & Treatment | MedStar Health

A tumor is any kind of unusual group of cells that grows in your body. We often associate tumors with cancer, but most hand tumors are not cancerous.

A ganglion cyst is the most common hand tumor and generally grows either on the top or inner side of your wrist. These fluid-filled pouches can put pressure on your nerves, causing pain.


  • The earliest indicator you will see is the lump (ganglion cyst) itself. The lumps are typically very painful but they can sometimes be painless.
  • Pain and tenderness will increase with extended use of the hand, and range of motion may be restricted.
  • Ganglions often change in size and may disappear spontaneously and completely.
  • Though we don’t know what causes these cysts and tumors to develop, we do know that ganglion cysts often affect women more than men, as well as gymnasts.

A giant cell tumor of tendon sheath is another common hand tumor, but it is solid, rather than filled with fluid. It grows on the protective covering that surrounds the tendons in the fingers.


MedStar Health offers the combination of experience and creativity to successfully treat any hand or wrist cyst or tumor. All of our orthopedic surgeons have fellowship training in hand surgery and care exclusively for hand and upper extremity conditions. We are the prime referral center for the most complex orthopedic hand conditions in Washington, D.C., and perform about 1,000 hand surgical procedures each year. You will also benefit from our skill in the most advanced treatment procedures.

We will always take time to talk with you about your condition, answer all of your questions, and explain your diagnosis. No matter how challenging your condition is to treat, we will work with you to develop an innovative and effective solution that restores your function and meets the demands of your daily life.


The orthopedic surgeons at MedStar Health are experts at diagnosing hand and wrist cysts and tumors. Our initial exam generally includes:

  • Taking your medical history: This includes asking questions about how long you have had the cyst or tumor, whether it has grown, and if it is painful.
  • Physical exam: Your orthopedist will examine your growth carefully, and touch it to see if it hurts.
  • Aspiration: In some cases, your orthopedist may want to examine the fluid from inside the cyst to confirm a diagnosis. The orthopedist will insert a needle with a syringe into the cyst to remove fluid.
  • Imaging tests: If your orthopedist wants to confirm the size and shape of your growth, you may need an MRI. An X-ray helps to rule out the presence of other problems, including arthritis or a cancerous tumor.


Physicians generally seek to heal ganglion cysts without surgery. In some cases, ganglion cysts disappear on their own without any treatment. For cysts that do not resolve themselves, treatment options include:

  • Brace or splint: Wearing a brace or splint keeps the affected wrist from moving. Resting the wrist keeps the cyst from growing, and helps to relieve pain.
  • Aspiration: Your physician may drain the fluid within the cyst, helping it to heal and disappear.
  • Surgery: Surgery is recommended for giant cell tumors of tendon sheath and ganglion cysts that return even after aspiration. Minimally invasive hand surgery is employed to remove the cyst or tumor, as well as any affected surrounding joint tissue.