What is a lipoma?
A lipoma is a slow-growing, fatty lump that’s most often situated between your skin and the underlying muscle layer. A lipoma, which feels doughy and usually isn’t tender, moves readily with slight finger pressure.
A lipoma isn’t cancer and usually is harmless. Treatment generally isn’t necessary, but if the lipoma bothers you, is painful or is growing, you may want to have it removed.
How common is a lipoma?
Lipomas are usually detected in middle age. Some people have more than one lipoma. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of a lipoma?
There are many types of skin tumors, but a lipoma usually has distinct characteristics. If you suspect that you have a lipoma it will generally:
- Be soft to the touch
- Move easily if prodded with your finger
- Be just under the skin
- Be pale
- Be colorless
- Grow slowly
Lipomas are most commonly located in the neck, back, and shoulders, but they can also occur on the stomach, thighs, and arms. The lipoma is only painful if it grows into nerves underneath the skin.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes a lipoma?
The cause of lipomas is unknown. Lipomas tend to run in families, so genetic factors likely play a role in their development.
What increases my risk for a lipoma?
There are many risk factors for a lipoma, such as:
- Being between 40 and 60 years old. Although lipomas can occur at any age, they’re most common in this age group. Lipomas are rare in children.
- Having certain other disorders. People with other disorders, including adiposis dolorosa, Cowden syndrome and Gardner’s syndrome, have an increased risk of multiple lipomas.
- Lipomas tend to run in families.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is a lipoma diagnosed?
Doctors can often diagnose a lipoma by performing a physical exam. It feels soft and isn’t painful. Also, since it’s made up of fatty tissues, the lipoma moves easily when touched.
In some cases, a dermatologist might take a biopsy of the lipoma. During this procedure, they’ll scrape a small portion of the tissue and send it to a lab for testing. This test is done to rule out the possibility of cancer. Although a lipoma isn’t cancerous, it can look like a liposarcoma, which is malignant, or cancerous. Unlike lipomas, liposarcomas are painful and grow under the skin quickly.
Further testing using MRI and CT scans are only required if a biopsy shows that a suspected lipoma is actually a liposarcoma.
How is a lipoma treated?
No treatment is usually necessary for a lipoma. However, if the lipoma bothers you, is painful or is growing, your doctor might recommend that it be removed. Lipoma treatments include:
- Surgical removal. Most lipomas are removed surgically by cutting them out. Recurrences after removal are uncommon. Possible side effects are scarring and bruising. A technique known as minimal excision extraction may result in less scarring.
- Steroid injections. This treatment shrinks the lipoma but usually doesn’t eliminate it. The use of injections before surgical removal is being studied.
- This treatment uses a needle and a large syringe to remove the fatty lump.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage a lipoma?
A lipoma can’t be reduced with self-care. Ice and heat packs may work for other types of skin lumps, but they aren’t helpful for lipomas because they’re fat-based. See your doctor for treatment if you have any concerns about getting rid of a lipoma.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
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