96745 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Lipoma

    (Fatty Tumor)

    Definition

    A lipoma is a harmless lump of fat. There are several types. They are classified mainly by where they appear. They can occur anywhere. The most common location is just beneath the skin.
    Most tissue in the body can grow beyond its normal limits and form a lump or tumor. Tumors come in two forms:
    • Benign—stop growing after they reach a certain size (eg, moles , polyps, lipomas); some can turn into cancer, but lipomas do not
    • Malignant—cancer, rarely stops growing
    Benign Tumor
    benign tumor
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Causes

    Lipomas have no known cause.

    Risk Factors

    Risk factors that increase your chances of developing a lipoma include:
    • Family history—Lipomas seem to run in families.
    • Lipomatosis—This is a hereditary condition that produces many lipomas all over the body.
    • Adiposis dolorosa—This is a rare disease that produces many painful lipomas.

    Symptoms

    If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to lipomas. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you notice a soft lump under your skin. The lump may be:
    • Usually less than 5 cm in size
    • Soft and able to be moved around
    • Often painless

    Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The diagnosis is usually based on smoothness, softness, and ease of movement under the skin. If the diagnosis is uncertain, the area will be biopsied or imaged.

    Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. You may want to leave the lump alone. If it is growing rapidly, the lump should be biopsied. Treatment options include:

    Surgical Excision

    In most cases, this can be done in your doctor's office or as outpatient surgery. This is minor surgery unless the lipoma is deep inside the body.

    Liposuction

    Liposuction is commonly used to remove large amounts of fat from under the skin. The procedure can also be done to remove single fatty tumors.

    Prevention

    There are no methods to prevent lipomas.

    RESOURCES

    American Society of Dermatology http://www.asd.org/

    American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org/

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    The Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons http://www.plasticsurgery.ca/

    Dermatologists.ca http://www.dermatologists.ca/

    References

    Lipoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ . Updated September 28, 2011. Accessed November 16, 2012.

    Lipoplasty. American Society of Plastic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.plasticsurgery.org/public%5Feducation/procedures/Lipoplasty.cfm . Accessed November 16, 2012

    Mccann J, Schilling A. Lipomas. The Merck Manual of Medical Information . 2nd ed. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories; 2005.

    Salam GA. Lipoma excision. Am Fam Physician . 2002;65:901-904.

    Revision Information

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