Is a Lipoma?
A lipoma is a growth of fatty tissue that slowly develops
under your skin. People of any age can develop a lipoma, but children rarely
develop them. A lipoma can form on any part of the body, but they typically
appear on the:
They’re classified as benign growths, or tumors, of fatty
tissue. This means a lipoma isn’t cancerous and is rarely harmful.
Treatment for a lipoma usually isn’t necessarily unless it’s
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
- 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.
You should call your doctor if you notice any changes in
your skin. Lipomas can look very similar to a cancerous condition called
What Are the Risk Factors for Developing a Lipoma?
The cause of lipomas is unknown. Your risk of developing
this type of skin lump increases if you have a family history of lipomas.
This condition is most
prevalent in adults between the ages of 40 and 60.
Certain conditions may also increase your risk of lipoma
development. These include:
- adiposis dolorosa
- Cowden syndrome
- Gardner’s syndrome
- Madelung’s disease
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 MRIs and CT scans are only required if
a biopsy shows that a suspected lipoma is actually a liposarcoma.
Is a Lipoma Treated?
A lipoma that’s left alone usually doesn’t cause any
problems. However, your dermatologist can treat the lump if it bothers you.
Your dermatologist will make the best treatment recommendation based on a
variety of factors including:
- the size of the lipoma
- the number of skin tumors you have
- your personal history of skin cancer
- your family history of skin cancer
- whether the lipoma is painful
The most common way to treat a lipoma is to remove it
through surgery. This is especially helpful if you have a large skin tumor
that’s still growing. Lipomas rarely grow back once they’re surgically removed.
Another treatment option is liposuction. Since lipomas are
fat-based, this procedure can work well to reduce its size. Liposuction
involves a needle attached to a large syringe, and the area is usually numbed
before the procedure.
Steroid injections may also be used right on the affected
area. This treatment can shrink the lipoma, but it doesn’t completely remove
What Is the Outlook for Someone with a Lipoma?
Lipomas are benign tumors. This means that there’s no chance
that an existing lipoma will spread. The condition will not spread through
muscles or any other surrounding tissues, and it isn’t life-threatening.
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.