Any lump that appears on your body should be checked. The most common lump you will notice are lipomas which are harmless lumps that usually don’t need any treatment. Lipomas are noncancerous (benign) tumors composed of fat cells and are soft and slow growing. They are usually found under the skin (subcutaneous.) Common areas for lipomas are the back, shoulders, buttocks, and thighs.
Most problems caused by a lipoma depend on where it is growing. Lipomas bother people for cosmetic reasons and patients often ask if they can be removed. Yes they can, but it’s a bit of a hassle. Lipomas can be removed by surgery and don’t usually recur after surgery but that will leave a big scar. They can also be removed by liposuction, but liposuction often cannot remove the whole lipoma.
What else could it be? Your doctor should make sure the lump isn’t a cyst, abscess, or very rarely a liposarcoma. Liposarcomas are cancers that grow in fatty tissues yet unlike lipomas they grow very quickly. If you see a significant increase in the size of your lipoma you should mention that to your doctor. You should also call your doctor if the lipoma becomes painful.
For most lipomas, imaging studies aren’t necessary for diagnosis but if it starts to rapidly increase in size a CT scan or MRI can be done. Small lipomas that are not causing problems should just be watched. If a lipoma continues to enlarge or causes problems, removal is the best treatment.
Do you have one?
- Dr. O
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