Lipomas do not always have to be removed, as they are benign form of tumour. Many people do choose to have their lipomas removed, however, such as for cosmetic reasons, or if the lipoma is large & in a location that causes regular irritation or discomfort (such as under the armpit, or on the wrist or hand).
In all cases, if you notice a lump on your skin that has not already been diagnosed, or if you notice changes to an existing lump, please make an appointment to see a dermatologist & get it checked out to make sure that there are no complications or cancerous changes.
A lipoma is a benign tumour caused by an overgrowth of fat cells that form a lump beneath the skin. Lipomas are non-cancerous, but are often removed as they can cause pain, discomfort, or grow quite large. The causes of lipomas are not fully understood, although there is a genetic component (family history).
The main symptom of a lipoma is the appearance of a roundish mass beneath the skin, which has a soft, rubbery texture. Lipomas will move slightly beneath the skin when you press on them.
Pain is not usually a symptom with a lipoma, except when they grow very large & impede movement, press on nerves or bones, or contain blood vessels (angiolipoma). Lipomas can grow anywhere on the body, but are most commonly found on the upper back, shoulders, arms, upper thighs, & buttocks. They may also grow in the deeper tissues of the body, & be difficult to feel on the surface.
Lipomas are a common soft tissue tumour, & usually grow in adults, most commonly in people aged 40-60 years old, & slightly more in men than women.
A liposarcoma is a more aggressive form of lipoma which is cancerous. The symptoms are slightly different to those of an ordinary lipoma. A liposarcoma tends to grow more quickly, is more likely to be painful, & will not move as readily beneath the skin. If you have the symptoms of a lipoma, part of the diagnostic process will involve checking to make sure that the mass is a lipoma & not a liposarcoma.
If you have a lipoma that has been diagnosed, & decide not to have it removed, it is important that you check it every now & then to make sure that it has not changed.
Changes in a lipoma to be aware of are:
- Suddenly growing quickly, or becoming very large in size
- Pain or tenderness at the site
- Skin on & around the lipoma becoming inflamed (hot or red)
- Hardening of the texture of the lump
- Any other visible changes in the skin surface
If you notice any of these changes to a lipoma, please make an appointment to get it checked out with the dermatologist as soon as possible.