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A cyst is a closed pocket, or lump, of tissue somewhere in the body. It can be filled with air, liquid or other matter. Often, cysts are benign, meaning they're not cancerous, and cause few problems, although some benign cysts do cause some issues. Other cysts, however, can become malignant and lead to the development of cancer.

Some cysts grow large and in multiples and cause pain and discomfort. Others grow in awkward places, like around hand joints, and limit mobility. Because of the vast variety of cysts and the nature of them in the body, treatment of cysts varies on a case-by-case basis.

Types of Cysts

Think of a part of the body, and chances are good that a cyst can grow there. For example, women frequently experience ovarian cysts or breast cysts. In the brain, a variety of types of cysts, such as arachnoid, dermoid or colloid cysts, can grow. Unicameral bone cysts can grow in the bones of the arms and legs, and ganglion cysts occur in the wrists and hands. Vocal cord cysts are possible, too.


Treatment of cysts varies widely, depending on their size, location and nature (benign or malignant). Many cysts cause no harm, and nothing needs to be done to treat them. Some cysts can be treated with aspiration, which involves inserting a needle to drain the fluid or air from the cyst. In cases where the cyst is especially problematic or even cancerous, surgery is often needed to remove the cyst and surrounding tissue. Depending on the location of the cyst, this procedure may be able to be performed laparoscopically, or with long robotic arms that are inserted into the skin, rather than with a more invasive open surgery.

SOURCES: American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; American Society for Surgery of the Hand; American Brain Tumor Association; American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; American Academy of Otolaryngology

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