Q & A
What is a Soft Tissue Mass?
Soft tissue masses can occur anywhere on the foot or ankle. Most are benign masses caused by soft tissue swelling, sacs of fluid, fatty tissue, and nerve, vessel or muscle enlargements. Only about one in one thousand are malignant tumors capable of spreading to other parts of the body.
Most Common Soft Tissue Masses
The most common soft tissue mass in the foot/ankle are bursas, ganglion cysts, inclusion cysts, fibromas or lipomas. Ganglion cysts are best thought of as contained leaks of lubricating fluid of tendons or joints. While they are not generally harmful, they can be painful. Bursas are small sacs of fluid that the body produces to cushion prominent bones or protect tendons from irritation. On occasion they too can become inflamed and irritated. Inclusion cysts form when the body walls off a foreign body. These can often form from splinters and pet hairs.
You may notice:
A sizeable lump – often this is the only symptom experienced. Note if it is slow or fast-growing.
Tingling or burning, if the mass is pressing against a nerve
Dull pain or ache, if the mass is pressing against a tendon or joint
Difficulty wearing shoes due to irritation between the lump and the shoe
There are many kinds of soft tissue masses that can be found in the foot and ankle. Most diagnoses can be made based on a thorough history and physical examination, while others may be difficult to definitively diagnose a mass based on visual findings alone. Certain types of masses occur in certain areas. While this may be a clue to the diagnosis, MRI or other imaging modalities can sometimes be used to assist with determining a likely diagnosis. To be sure about the mass, surgical excision is often necessary.
When to Visit a Podiatrist
If you have a soft tissue mass and unsure about what it is, have it examined.
Self-monitoring- If the mass causes no pain and does not interfere with walking, Dr. Tien may decide it is best to carefully watch the mass over a period of time.
Shoe modifications- Wear shoes that do not rub the mass or cause irritation. In addition, placing a pad inside the shoe may help reduce pressure against the cyst.
Aspiration and injection- This technique involves draining the mass if it appears to be fluid-filled and then injecting a steroid medication into the mass to shrink it and prevent its recurrence.
Surgical Excision- The mass can then be examined by a pathologist and a final diagnosis can be made.
Commonly Found Masses in the Foot and Ankle:
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