What are lipomas?
Lipomas are benign (not cancerous), slow-growing tumors that come from fat cells. They are usually round, moveable lumps under the skin. They feel soft and doughy or rubbery. Lipomas usually grow in the neck, shoulders, back, or arms. Lipomas are the most common noncancerous tumor in adults. Most lipomas do not hurt unless they are squeezed or bruised.
Symptoms of lipomas
Often, a lipoma has been growing for years before it is noticeable. It is fairly common to have more than one lipoma. If you notice a lump or swelling anywhere on your body, you should have it checked by your family doctor. In some cases, a lump can be a sign of a more serious problem.
What causes lipomas?
Doctors don’t know exactly what causes lipomas to grow. They can occur at any age, but they often appear when you’re between 40 and 60 years of age. Sometimes they run in families. Sometimes they are caused by an injury. Lipomas are not caused by being overweight.
How are lipomas diagnosed?
Tests are usually not needed to diagnose a lipoma. Your doctor can usually diagnose it just by looking at it and feeling the firmness of the lump. They may order an ultrasound to get an image of the growth to confirm the diagnosis.
Can lipomas be prevented or avoided?
There is no proven method for preventing lipomas from forming.
Lipomas are almost always benign. They usually do not need treatment. If they are painful or are growing quickly, you may want to have treatment. Treatment options include steroid shots, liposuction, or surgery to remove the lipoma. This can even be done in your doctor’s office. Your doctor can help you decide what is right for you.
Living with lipomas
Once your doctor confirms that you have a lipoma, you can choose your next step. Does your lipoma interfere with your day-to-day activities? If not, you can just leave it alone. But if it makes you uncomfortable, you can have it surgically removed.
Questions to ask your doctor
- Does having lipomas make me more likely to develop cancer?
- Is there anything I can do to prevent lipomas in the future?
- Will I need surgery to remove the lipoma?
- Are there any websites you recommend where I can find information about lipomas?
- If I notice another swelling on my body, do I need to see my doctor?
- Are there any problems that I may experience from my treatment, or from waiting to begin treatment?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.