These tumors are small (often less than 1 centimeter) but can grow up to 6 centimeters, and usually painless.
Lipomas are very common—approximately 1 percent of the population reportedly have a lipoma somewhere on their body—but they are most often found in adults between 40 and 60 years of age, or in children. There are differing opinions in the medical community as to whether or not these tumors can become malignant.
Signs & Symptoms
The cause of lipomas is not known, although there is a common belief that they are hereditary. These growths are usually found in the head, neck, torso, upper thighs, upper arms, or the underarms, although they can form anywhere on the body.
A lipoma is characterized by the following signs:
- A growth has formed that is small in size and can be felt right under the surface of the skin
- The mass is moveable and feels “rubbery”
- Is painless
- Has remained the same size, or has grown very slowly over the span of a few years
Diagnosis & Treatment of Lipoma
A doctor can often diagnose a lipoma simply by looking at it, and may choose to remove it as a preventative measure against the mass becoming malignant.
Most lipomas are harmless and do not require treatment. In some cases, the mass may need to be removed if any of the following occur:
- Growth becomes painful or tender
- Frequently becomes infected or inflamed
- Emits a foul-smelling discharge(could signal infection)
- Limits mobility
- Changes drastically in size
- Changes drastically in appearance
The growth can be removed surgically by a physician during an in-office procedure; depending on the location of the mass, it may need to be removed in a hospital with the patient under general anesthesia.
A regular lipoma usually does not cause any long-term health problems or side effects. Unless the growth becomes inflamed or more serious issues develop, the patient should not notice any difference in the quality of life if they have a lipoma. If more serious conditions do arise, the size, location, and symptoms of the growth will determine the patient’s long-term prognosis.