The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Foot Tumors: Doctor, What Is This Lump On My Foot?

Posted by on Monday, July 29th, 2013


The word “tumor” conjures up scary thoughts of cancer and deformity. Yet, more often than not, tumors are just benign masses of cells. Either way, it’s wise to have any unsightly bump checked out to be certain. When left unattended, serious tumors can be fatal. When diagnosed as benign, you can then choose from a range of treatment options.

Who Is Most Likely To Get A Foot Tumor?

A comprehensive review of 101 foot tumors by North Glasgow researchers found that the average age of their patients was about 47.3 (with a range of 14 to 79). The vast majority of the patients they saw (71) were females. Risk factors varied based on the condition, but researchers identified ganglion cysts as the most common foot lesion. Only one of the tumors in the study was found to be cancerous.

What Are The Most Common Foot Tumors?

  • Ganglion Cysts – A ganglion cyst is caused by inflammation on a joint or tendon. It often looks like a sac of jelly-like liquid. They may feel firm or spongy, depending on the size. The precise cause of ganglion cysts is not known, but it’s believed that some type of trauma may cause the tissue to breakdown into small cysts that wind up forming a larger mass. Up to half of these cysts disappear without treatment, but if your cyst is causing you pain, discomfort or embarrassment, you can visit a podiatrist who may drain it or surgically remove it. In about 74% of all cases, draining the cyst with a needle is enough to cure the problem.
    • Neuromas – A neuroma is a thickening of nerve tissue. The most common is called Morton’s Neuroma, which occurs between the third and fourth toes. Chronic compression and irritation of the nerve can cause permanent nerve damage, so it’s best to treat this type of tumor right away. Running, court sports, wearing improper shoes or have abnormally flat feet may be contributing factors to this condition. Often, you’ll feel a burning, tingling sensation and it will feel as though you’re walking on a marble. The first line of treatment is new shoes, orthotics, ice, ibuprofen, activity modification and corticosteroid shots. Sometimes surgery is needed.
    • Lipomas – A lipoma is a growth of fat cells in a thin, fibrous capsule just below the skin in the soft tissue of the foot. The benign tumors are very small, movable and rubbery. Typically, they are not accompanied by pain and they remain the same size for years. The cause is unknown, but it’s likely caused by a combination of genetics and minor trauma. Lipomas can be surgically removed if they are discharging, infected, inflamed or just all around unsightly.
    • Plantar Fibromatosis –This condition usually strikes people in their fifties and sixties. Rapid-growing benign tumors made up of ligament cells (fibrocytes) spread over the middle of the arch. The mass is generally very painful when any pressure is placed upon it. Causes may include cysts, swollen or ruptured tendons, nerve tumors, fat tumors, foreign body penetrating trauma, or infection. Surgery may be required if an off-loading shoe insert provides no relief.

    Could It Be Skin Cancer Melanoma?

    Your first instinct upon sighting any kind of growth on your foot may be to ask, “Is it cancer?” While malignant skin cancer on the foot is relatively rare, here are some of the signs:

    • The growth is on the soles, between the toes or around/under the toenails.
    • The growth occurs over a mole, freckle or other seemingly normal “spot.”
    • A “spot” changes its border, color, diameter or elevation over time.

    The good news is that melanomas are very treatable when detected early. Before getting too worked up, come see us at the NYC Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine to put your mind at ease.


    If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.