In May 2012, a Texas woman named Joy Self finally decided to address a physically debilitating condition that had been bothering her for a decade. Following many hours of surgery in Dallas, TX, a 56-pound tumor was removed from her abdomen. Thin walled and fluid filled, it was determined to be a benign ovarian cyst. Ms. Self stated that she began to notice unusual weight gain, especially in her abdominal area, about ten years ago. Due to the fact that she did not like doctors, she had never sought medical attention. However, over the past ten years she and her family witnessed a dramatic decrease in her quality of life. She stated that she was constantly short of breath, required the support of tables and other objects to be able to move around the rooms of her home, and that she was experiencing increasing pain in her rib cage and abdominal area.
Ms. Self is very fortunate not only to have found doctors who were able to remove such a large mass, but also to have post-poned medical treatment without developing any significant long term detriments to her health. The tumor was cutting off blood flow to her legs as well as preventing adequate blood flow back to her heart. The lack of oxygen getting to her heart alone could have produced devastating consequences for Ms. Self. Ovarian cysts are relatively common in women of all ages. However, these cysts often rupture before causing mild, if any, pain or discomfort. Like this one, these cysts are typically benign.
Another type of benign soft tissue mass commonly found in patients is called a ganglion cyst. (It has also been referred to as a Bible cyst.) Ganglions are also frequently located on the wrist in many patients. When located behind the knee it is called a Baker’s cyst. It is the most common soft tissue lesion found on the foot and is usually located at the lateral side of the foot or ankle. Females are three times more likely than males to develop a ganglion cyst. Similar to Ms. Self’s ovarian cyst, patients may have a ganglion for years without experiencing any symptoms that force them to seek medical attention. However, ganglion cysts are not always benign and harmless, and it is therefore important to discuss any masses, new or old, with your podiatrist during an appointment at Frederick Foot & Ankle Specialists with locations in Frederick and Urbana, MD.
Ganglions can be small or large, and are typically firm. They develop above a tendon and contain synovial (joint) fluid. Ganglions are usually the result of some sort of trauma to the area at which they form, such as an inversion sprain of the ankle. It has been found that ganglions tend to form fairly quickly, so it is unlikely one would continue to increase in size over a period of ten years into a 56-pound mass on one’s foot or wrist.
Unfortunately, the prevalence of ganglions has led many patients and physicians to discount the fact that not all soft tissue masses are more bothersome than harmless. All soft tissue tumors should be examined and evaluated by a physician in order to rule out a dangerous, malignant growth. One of the simplest methods of confirming the presence of a ganglion is to have your podiatrist at Frederick Foot & Ankle Specialists drain the cyst with a needle. Ganglions are filled with a yellow-clear, gelatin-like fluid. Although drainage of a ganglion does not ensure that it will not return, it will help to confirm that the patient has more of a cosmetic dilemma rather than a life-threatening cancerous growth.
Although soft tissue tumors are common throughout the body and may not cause any threats to one’s health, it is vital that you see your doctor as soon as you notice any new developments or lumps. Remember, size is not indicative of the level of danger to your health. All lesions, benign or malignant, no matter the size, were small lesions at one point. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to changes in your body. Never hesitate to seek medical advice. Your podiatrist, with a simple procedure, can confirm whether or not you have a harmless ganglion cyst or something requiring further investigation.
By: Dr. Nikki Ho