It can be disconcerting to find an abnormal lump growing just beneath the surface of your skin, even if it’s not very large or painful. Fortunately, newly developed bumps aren’t always a sign of cancer — in fact, plenty of irregular growths turn out to be completely harmless.
Lipomas are one of the most common benign tumors, or noncancerous growths. Because they tend to form slowly, most lipomas grow unnoticed for years before they’re sizable enough to be detected.
Lipomas are rarely serious, but they can sometimes be bothersome. At Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy in Glendale, Arizona, board-certified surgeon Johnny L. Serrano, DO, FACOS, specializes in evaluating problematic lipomas — and removing them when necessary.
What’s a lipoma?
A lipoma is a harmless clump of fatty tissue that typically forms just beneath the surface of the skin. As the most prevalent benign tumor in adults, lipomas tend to appear along the shoulders, neck, back, abdomen, arms, or thighs.
There are several kinds of lipomas. A conventional lipoma, the most common type, consists of mature white fat cells; a fibrolipoma contains fatty as well as fibrous tissue; and an angiolipoma is made up of fatty tissue along with blood vessels.
Most lipomas are contained by a thin, fibrous capsule that stretches as they grow and prevents them from “invading” surrounding tissues. This helps explain why these fatty lumps are usually round or oval and completely symmetrical.
How is a lipoma diagnosed?
Dr. Serrano doesn’t need complex diagnostic tests to identify a lipoma; he can usually diagnose the growth simply by looking at it and feeling how firm it is — lipomas feel soft and doughy, and they move readily with a gentle push of the finger.
Lipomas also tend to develop slowly, emerging over the course of months or even years. Once they’ve stabilized, they tend to remain the same as time goes on. While lipomas can grow to be larger than six inches across, the vast majority are less than two inches wide.
Although most lipomas aren’t uncomfortable or tender, larger lipomas may become painful if they begin to press on nearby nerves. Lipomas that contain many blood vessels also tend to be more painful.
By comparison, the typical cancerous tumor is large, firm, unmovable, and fast-growing; many grow so fast they seem to appear “spontaneously.”
Can I get rid of my lipoma?
If your lipoma is small, painless, and inconspicuous, you don’t need to do anything about it — in fact, the vast majority of lipomas don’t require treatment.
If, however, your lipoma is painful, prominent, or unappealing, you can opt to have it removed. You may choose surgical excision because your lipoma is difficult to hide, feels irritating under your clothing, or is in an unusually disruptive location like the palm of your hand.
Because lipomas are completely contained in a thin, fibrous capsule, they’re relatively easy to remove. In most cases, Dr. Serrano simply injects a local anesthetic, makes a small incision over the lump, and gently extracts the capsule.
If your lipoma is painful or abnormally large, Dr. Serrano may perform a quick ultrasound to determine its type and check for blood vessels. Although more complex lipomas may need to be removed in sections, Dr. Serrano always aims to keep incisions as small as possible.
To schedule your lipoma evaluation at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy, call 602-393-1304 today, or use the easy online booking tool to make an appointment with Dr. Serrano any time.