Lipoma is a slow growing tumor of the fatty tissue that is usually formed under the skin. It can grow anywhere in the body, but most commonly it is found in the neck, back, shoulders, abdomen and armpits. These lipomas are usually benign and are, therefore harmless. They also remain asymptomatic until and unless they press over a nerve or have blood vessels passing through them. They do not cause any problems to the patient other than cosmetic concerns (they can lead to disfigurement wherever present).
They usually affect the middle aged and older people and their etiology remains unknown. It is known to run in families, i.e., it is hereditary and it also affects alcoholic men more. Most often, it does not even require treatment and can be left as it is. In case, of large lipomas a simple surgical excision of the fatty tissue can be done without further complications.
Is Lipoma Cancer Curable?
Lipomas are benign tumors (masses) and they do not turn into a cancer. It is always best to remove any lumps in the body if they are of considerable size. Lipomas of smaller size do not generally require any treatment and can be left alone as it is as they are not symptomatic. They may need medical care only when they become painful and increase in size, or they become infected or inflamed and if they interfere with the function and comfort of the affected portion of the patient. A number of treatment options are available for lipomas, which include liposuction of the fatty tissue under local anesthesia mostly for larger lipomas, steroid injections, and simple surgical excision of the lipoma with the help of marked incisions and squeeze technique to get rid of lipoma.
Advanced techniques are also used these days which include use of lasers and microwave ablation which result in decreased scarring and abrasion of the skin. They are however costly and not easily available in small places. It also requires expertise in term of the medical practitioner to perform these operations. Therefore simple surgical excision is still widely used to remove lipomas. This procedure also has a less recurrence rate as compared to the liposuction where the lipomas tend to recur most of the time.
The prognosis of lipomas is very good as they are not dangerous to the patient. The outlook for the patient with lipomas management has shown excellent results. They are neither harmful nor show problematic symptoms that affect a person’s quality of life. It is very rarely that they can turn into a malignant condition known as liposarcoma which grows rapidly in size and is also painful in nature. Also, very rarely the lipomas growing in the internal organs can lead to bleeding. But, the overall prognosis of people suffering with lipomas is very good and positive in the long run.
Symptoms of Lipoma
They can be either single or multiple lipomas. They affect all age groups, but are more common in people aged between 40 to 60 years. It is also unclear if trauma or injury causes lipoma or not, but it has been seen in many cases that lipoma forms after an injury.
Lipomas are usually small in size ranging from 2-4 cm across the diameter; they can however, sometimes grow unusually large in size. They are painless, freely mobile under the skin, soft and doughy in touch. The skin over the lipoma is normal looking. They can become painful when they press over the nerves and have blood vessels running above them.
Diagnosis of Lipoma
Lipomas can be easily identified on performing a physical examination and doctor may ask you for a history of symptoms as well. It is important to differentiate it from liposarcoma, which is a rapidly growing tumor with a similar appearance. It is painful and grows very fast under the skin. To confirm the diagnosis doctor may ask you to get additional tests done such as a CT scan and MRI. A biopsy may also be performed where a small tissue sample is taken and sent to a lab for study.