Six Steps to Diagnose a Ganglion Cyst | BEST

A ganglion cyst is a type of noncancerous lump that develops on the back of the hand. This is the most common form of lump or mass that develops on the hand. It is often not painful and not seen as harmful. In many cases, they can go away on their own. 

However, patients who develop a growth on the hand should never assume it is a ganglion cyst without receiving a professional diagnosis from a qualified physician. To help you better understand how physicians diagnose a ganglion cyst, take a moment to read the following step-by-step guide. 

Understanding this important process can help relieve anxiety when you meet with your doctor and help you be more engaged in the treatment process. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to the BEST Health System at any time. 

1. Review Medical History

A key part of how doctors diagnose a ganglion cyst is discussing your medical history. When meeting with a physician to diagnose any conditions or injury, a medical history review can help the doctor understand if there is a predisposition toward certain issues among the patient or the family. 

It is also extremely important for the broader treatment process to determine whether a patient has any allergies or preexisting conditions that would cause a negative response to certain therapies. 

2. Discuss Symptoms

The next step to diagnose a ganglion cyst will be the physician asking how long ago the growth developed. It will also be important for them to determine whether it is causing pain or interfering with daily activities. In most cases, treatment, up to and including surgical removal, is only necessary if there is pain or if there are serious cosmetic concerns. 

Your doctor may also ask questions about your profession and lifestyle to determine if there are any sports or movements that could potentially be contributing to growth. 

3. Perform an Examination

The next step will generally be a hands-on examination of the growth. This should involve the doctor carefully palpating and putting pressure on the lump. The primary goal is to test for hardness or to check for tender areas. 

4. Test for Translucence

Another common evaluation step is to shine a small light on it to check for translucence. This is because ganglion cysts are generally filled with a clear fluid. If it shines through the cyst it is a good way to confirm the diagnosis of a ganglion cyst. 

5. Ordering Diagnostic Testing

Diagnostic imagery may be needed to rule out another condition or identify whether a ganglion cyst is present beneath the skin. While X-rays cannot see the cyst itself, they are useful in ruling out issues such as tumors in the bone or arthritis. 

MRI and ultrasound are two diagnostic tools that can be used to positively identify ganglion cysts. This is particularly true if it is present beneath the skin, which is known as an occult ganglion cyst. 

6. Recommend Appropriate Treatments

If these diagnostic steps result in the positive identification of a ganglion cyst, the next step will be to develop a treatment plan. In a high number of cases, a non-painful cyst simply requires a period of observation. In other cases, periods of rest and activity modification can help relieve symptoms, along with over-the-counter medication as needed. 

If the cyst continues growing and causes swelling or discomfort, aspiration, or draining the fluid from the cyst can be an effective treatment. 

When is Surgical Treatment or Removal Necessary 

Ganglion cysts can pose a serious quality-of-life threat if pain and other symptoms make daily activities difficult. Among them are disruptions of daily life, work-related tasks, and enjoyment of hobbies. Surgery can also become a possibility if the cyst grows back after draining. Finally, patients often opt for surgical treatment for cosmetic reasons if there is serious concern regarding the appearance of the cyst. 

In surgical treatment for a ganglion cyst, the surgeon will typically access the hand or wrist and remove the cyst. It is sometimes necessary to remove a portion of the soft tissue around the cyst to prevent its regrowth. Several minimally invasive techniques have been developed to remove ganglion cysts as an outpatient procedure. In most cases, rehabilitation takes two to six weeks for most patients before they are back to full regular activities. 

Reach Out to BEST Health System Today!

To learn more about conservative and surgical treatments for ganglion cysts, including ganglion cyst removal, contact BEST Health System today. Our experienced and highly dedicated treatment team has years of experience helping patients overcome pain and mobility issues to regain a healthy and active lifestyle. We take a holistic interdisciplinary approach designed to provide individualized care that is right for each patient’s needs.