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Medical Dermatology

Lipomas / Fatty Tumors

What is a lipoma?

A lipoma is a superficial fatty tumor encased in a capsule. It grows between the skin and the underlying muscle. Lipomas are almost always not cancerous, do not spread extensively, and grow slowly. A lipoma can develop anywhere on the body but tends to develop on the head, neck, shoulders, and back. They are less common in the armpits, thighs and other parts of the body. About one percent of the US population is affected by lipomas. People aged 40-60 are often affected. Rarely a lipoma can be associated with certain genetic disorders.

What are the symptoms of a lipoma?

Fatty tumors are typically soft, small and slightly moveable but are attached to the underlying tissues. Usually lipomas are painless but may be uncomfortable when they are located on a joint, grow rapidly or affect nerves and blood vessels.

What causes a lipoma?

The cause is not known but studies suggest a genetic connection in 2/3rds of cases. Some research suggests that a lipoma develops after a trauma to the soft tissues in the area where it develops. Other risk factors include obesity, liver disease and diabetes.

How is a lipoma diagnosed?

Your board-certified dermatologist will review your medical history and perform a physical examination. Most often a lipoma can be diagnosed with this examination. An ultrasound may be ordered to confirm the clinical diagnosis.

What are the treatment options?

When a lipoma has no symptoms and is not painful, there is no need for removal. However, when you feel the lipoma is cosmetically unacceptable or is symptomatic, it can be removed. Injections into the lipoma, liposuction of the tumor and surgical excision are the treatment options. However, surgical excision is the best alternative to ensure it does not grow back. Liposuction and steroid injections do not remove the entire tumor so it has a higher chance of growing back. The surgery to remove a lipoma is usually an office procedure accomplished under local anesthesia.

When you or a loved one develops an unusual lump, it may be harmless, but you need to schedule a consultation with Phoenix Surgical Dermatology Group in Phoenix, AZ. If the lump grows, causes pain or feels hard and immobile, contact Phoenix Surgical Dermatology Group immediately as there is a chance it could be a more serious problem.


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