Knowledge Center Articles
Managing Lipoma Tumors
Knowledge Center

Managing Lipoma Tumors

July 10, 2017
A doctor examining a man's shoulder.

A lipoma is a benign tumor made up of fat tissue just beneath the skin. Lipomas are usually painless and are often on the upper back, shoulders, arms, buttocks, and upper thighs.   Lipoma tumors most often appear between the ages of 40 and 60 years. More than one lipoma is possible. About one in 100 people develop lipomas, men more than women.

Lipomas are roundish masses under the skin surface that feel soft and rubbery to the touch. Lipomas in deep tissue can be large, less mobile and interfere with nerves and organs. The cause of lipomas is not completely understood. Some types may be genetic, inherited from family members. Usually, lipomas do not change after they form and have little chance of becoming cancerous. The DOC orthopedist will discuss general health and symptoms. During the examination, the doctor will feel the mass, checking size, consistency, and mobility. Usually, lipomas are diagnosed based on history and physical examination, but imaging tests are helpful. Computed tomography (CT) can show a fatty mass and confirm the diagnosis of lipoma. An MRI scan creates better images of soft tissues, showing a fatty mass from all perspectives. A biopsy is occasionally necessary to confirm the diagnosis of lipoma. A tissue sample of the tumor is taken and examined under a microscope. During the diagnosis phase, the biopsy helps to differentiate a lipoma from a more aggressive form of fatty tumor, liposarcoma. Because lipomas are benign tumors, no treatment may be necessary, but it is important to visit see the DOC doctor regularly to monitor any changes in the tumor. If a lipoma becomes painful, grows, or is pressing on a nerve or organ, it can be removed at DOC by an orthopedic surgeon with a simple excision procedure.

Some guest patients choose to have a lipoma removed for cosmetic reasons. In the excision procedure, a local anesthetic is typically injected around the tumor to numb the area. Large lipomas or those that are deep may require general anesthesia. After the anesthesia is given, the surgeon makes an incision and removes the tumor. The guest patient can usually go home soon after the excision procedure. Lipoma removal recovery depends on the size and location of the tumor. The good news is that lipomas rarely grow back. 

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