What is a Lipoma?
A lipoma is a fatty, dome shaped lump that is fairly soft to the touch. It forms just under the skin and is made up of adipose tissue (fat cells). It is non cancerous (benign) and if it does not cause a problem for the patient a lipoma can be left alone as it is usually painless.
(There is a fairly rare condition called "Dercum’s Disease" in which patients develop multiple lipomas which are usually tender or even painful).
Although lipomas can often appear unsightly, if they form lumps in exposed areas, they can form on any part of the body where there are fat cells – and have even been found in areas where one would not generally think that fat cells should be (such as on the surface of bones).
Lipomas are not attached to the skin and so, if pressed, they can move slightly under the skin and an edge can sometimes be felt. Lipomas can vary in size often being first noticed when about the size of a pea – but, if left, may grow in size and can become very, very big.
Some of the most common areas a lipoma can appear include the back, neck, shoulder and chest.
Who gets Lipomas?
Anyone can develop a lipoma although they are commonly found in people between the ages of 40 - 60 years old. As many as 1 in 100 people develop at least one lipoma. Some people can inherit a tendency of developing multiple lipomas - this condition is known as 'Familial Multiple Lipoma'.
Familial Multiple Lipomas – as the name implies - is when the fat cells can grow and develop into multiple fatty lumps. This is passed on genetically and so is inherited. These lipomas can develop anywhere on the body although commonly found on the breast, arms, head, neck and trunk of the body. If these lipomas are left untreated they can continue to grow. They are not usually painful but can appear in sensitive areas and become a source of embarrassment.
Diagnosing a Lipoma
You should seek the advice of a doctor or an expert clinic to diagnose your lipoma. The diagnosis is often made by look and feel although some clinicians will use an ultrasound scan or needle aspiration test to confirm its diagnosis, particularly if the lump appears suspicious at all.
Can Lipomas become cancerous (malignant)?
Lipomas are not cancerous and currently no research indicates that they can become so. Sometimes the terminology can become confused with a liposarcoma which is a malignant lump that will need to be removed.
Liposarcoma is a tumour that develops deep in the soft tissue. They are malignant (cancerous) but are generally very rare. As the tumour becomes larger it can become painful and can cause problems in the movement of a limb.
Diagnosis is usually made through a biopsy prior to the removal of the mass, although often the diagnosis is made with some certainty after diagnostic scanning – particularly MRI.
If you are at all concerned by an unidentified lump on your body, it is important to seek the advice of a doctor.
To find out more, or to book an appointment, please contact us.