Lipoma: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Lipoma is a benign tumor made of body fat or adipose tissue. Multiple lipoma grows between the underlying muscle and skin layer. The lumps are usually harmless and painless when touched. The growth itself moves readily with slight finger pressure. Lipomas are common among adults age 40 to 60 years old.

However, there are cases wherein kids develop lipomas too. The lumps are usually small, but there are some lipomas that grow to more than 20 centimeters. Although the treatment isn’t necessary, you can have it removed if the lump starts growing.

Causes of Lipoma

There is no known cause of lipoma. But there are factors that could trigger the development of the lumps. These factors include trauma, genetic makeup, and an underlying medical condition. For instance, those afflicted with adiposis dolorosa, Cowden syndrome or Gardner’s syndrome are at risk of developing this condition.

Lipoma Symptoms

It’s hard to detect lipoma during its early stage of development. But once the growth becomes bigger, it causes a visible lump in the affected area. Again, lipomas are usually small but there are some lumps that weigh several kilograms! The growth feels doughy to touch. It’s typically painless unless the lump grows so big it starts adding pressure to neighboring tissues and nerves. Lipomas usually pop all over the neck, shoulders and back. The abdomen, arms, and thighs are also common sites for lipomas.

Diagnosing Lipoma

If you’ve got several benign lumps, be prepared to give a detailed medical history to your doctor. It should include the duration of the lipoma development and its associated symptoms. In addition, make sure to list down all the medication and supplements you’ve been taking. If you have any questions to your doctor, list those as well.

Also, you will go through various tests and exams to determine the size, mobility and consistency of the lumps. Once the physical exam is completed, your doctor would suggest any of the following diagnostic procedures:

MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI will generate a clear image of the lumps. Usually, an MRI is conducted to confirm the results of other diagnostic tests. This way, your doctor don’t have to remove parts of the lump for biopsy.

CT Scan: A Computed Tomography scan will be conducted to analyze the presence of fatty mass in the affected area. However, the image isn’t as clear as MRI.

Biopsy: This medical procedure is sometimes used to diagnose lipoma. It’s done by extracting a small tissue sample from the affected area. The specimen will be analyzed under a microscope. Usually, biopsy is used to determine malignancy of the tissue sample.

Treating Lipoma

Because lipoma is harmless, treatment isn’t really required unless the mass becomes larger. If it becomes painful, consider having it removed through a minor surgical procedure. This procedure is called excision. If the lump is small, the affected area will be injected with local anesthesia. A small incision is made into the skin to extract the tumor. But if the lump is large, it will require general or regional anesthesia. Once the tumor is extracted, the incision is stitched up. You will be discharged several hours after the operation.

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