Soft Tissue Tumours of the Foot


The word 'tumour' (spelled 'tumor' in the U.S.) has a negative connotation, and people often equate the term with cancer.  But a tumour is simply a large accumulation of tissue in an atypical location, and the vast majority of tumours are, in fact, benign, or non-cancerous.  

There are a large number of lumps and bumps that may occur in the foot, and the purpose of this web page is to review some of the more common.   


Fibromas are simply lumps of fibrous connective tissue.  These usually occur alone, but may occur in groups throughout a region of the body, or throughout the entire body.  

The most common location is on the bottom of the foot, near the big, thick fibrous connective tissue known as the 'plantar fascia'.  When part of the plantar fascia, it is typically known as a fibromatosis (discussed below).

If asymptomatic, they don't require treatment.  But when painful, treatment typically includes padding to redistribute weight away from the lesions, and excision.  Most fibromas tend not to recur.  


Sometimes known as a Dupuytren's Contracture of the foot, a fibromatosis is lump of scar tissue that forms on the plantar fascia.  It may be caused by trauma (stepping on broken glass, e.g.) or from a systemic disease.  

Redistributing weight or simple excision may be the treatment chosen for this condition when it exists in isolation and is caused from trauma, but wide surgical excision may be chosen if this is caused from a systemic disease.  


A ganglion is a benign, fluid-filled sack that out-pockets from a joint or tendon sheath.  These lesions are probably the most common benign growth in the body, and may get larger or shrink fairly rapidly.  

Ganglions can be left alone if they cause no problems, but when care is indicated, they can be treated by aspiration (inserting a needle and drawing out the fluid contents) or surgical removal.  Ganglions have a relatively high recurrence rate.  

Inclusion Cyst

An inclusion cyst is really a piece of foreign material that is walled off by the body.  The foreign material may be a piece of glass, metal, wood....virtually anything that your body cannot expel or readily break down, and so, chooses to wall off instead.

A common way to develop an inclusion cyst is to step on a nail or something else sharp.  A piece of the nail may break off in side the foot, or it may simply implant into the body a piece of the shoe, the sock, or dead skin cells.   This material may then become encapsulated, or walled off from the body, becoming an inclusion cyst.  

Surgical excision is the most frequent treatment, and recurrence rate is quite low.   


A leiomyoma is a benign tumour of smooth muscle.  One common origin are the cells that make up your circulatory system.  In the foot, this muscle may be the erector pili muscle--the muscle that makes your hair stand up when you're cold. 

Treatment is usually through surgical excision, and recurrence rate is low.   


A lipoma is a benign, slow-growing fatty tissue growth, and it's quite common on the bottom of the foot.  Often mistaken for fibromas, because of their consistency and location, lipomas are treated in a similar fashion.   

If asymptomatic, they don't require treatment.  But when painful, treatment typically includes padding to redistribute weight away from the lesions, and excision.  Most lipomas do not recur after removal.  


Neuromas are not truly tumours at all--they consist of scar tissue that develops around nerves from repetitive trauma.  The classic spot for a neuroma to occur is on the bottom of the foot in the third interspace (between the third and fourth metatarsal bones and toes), in which case it is the bones on each side of the nerve that cause the trauma.  

For more information on neuromas and its treatment, you may wish to visit our web page devoted specifically to that topic. 

It may be quite difficult for even the doctor to know exactly what type of lesion you have.  Often the final diagnosis is made after the lesion is removed, and is sent to pathology.  A pathologist would look at the lesion under a microscope to give a definitive diagnosis. 



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The Achilles Foot Health Centre
S. A. Schumacher, D.P.M., F.A.C.F.A.S., F.A.C.F.A.O.M.  
Dr. S. A. Schumacher, Podiatric Corporation  

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