A lipoma is an abnormal fatty bump that typically develops within the subcutaneous layer of fat just beneath the skin. As one of the most common benign soft tissue growths, lipomas are not cancerous and aren’t likely to become malignant as time goes on.
Given that most lipomas are small, painless, and totally harmless, treatment is rarely required. Some people opt to have the rubbery bulge removed if it’s bothersome, prominent, or they don’t like how it looks.
As a board-certified general surgeon who specializes in lipoma evaluation and excision, Johnny L. Serrano, DO, FACOS, offers in-office lipoma removal at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy in Glendale, Arizona. Here’s what you should know.
A lipoma is a noncancerous tumor made up of fat cells that have accumulated into an obvious bump or mound. While a lipoma can occur in any part of your body, most appear in the layer of fatty tissue that’s situated between your skin and your muscles. The average lipoma is:
Located just under the skin
Most lipoma growths are subcutaneous, or located just beneath the skin. They’re conspicuous because they push outward toward the dermal layer, rather than inward toward muscle tissue. Lipomas commonly appear along the neck, shoulders, back, abdomen, arms, or thighs.
Soft, rubbery, and yielding
Unlike the average cancerous tumor that can been seen or felt along the outside of your body, lipomas are not firm or hard — they’re soft and pliable to the touch, and they move easily with a gentle push of the finger.
Relatively small and stable
Lipomas tend to grow slowly, often developing over a period of several months or years. Most stay relatively small, measuring less than two inches across. Most also remain stable, meaning they don’t continue growing once they’ve reached their apparent size.
Rarely uncomfortable or painful
A typical lipoma isn’t painful to the touch or uncomfortably taut. Most people aren’t bothered by having one, apart from its appearance.
Although lipomas can occur at any age, most form during middle age. The majority of people who develop a lipoma have a single growth, but one in five people with lipomas have multiple growths.
Lipoma removal factors
Given that most lipomas are neither painful nor harmful, they generally don’t require treatment of any kind — after an evaluation confirms they’re totally benign, they’re usually left alone.
That doesn’t mean you can’t decide to have a lipoma surgically removed, however. For those who opt to have this quick, in-office procedure, appearance is often their primary concern. The lipoma may be difficult to hide, or it may look prominent under certain clothes.
People also choose to have lipomas removed if they’re atypical in some way. This includes:
Overly large size
Lipomas can grow as large as eight inches across, and some lipomas continue growing as time goes on. Apart from obvious cosmetic concerns, an overly large lipoma can be bothersome or constraining, depending on where it occurs.
Most lipomas are self-contained, meaning they don’t invade surrounding tissue. Unfortunately, they can still affect nearby tissues, nerves, and blood vessels.
A lipoma may cause discomfort or pain if it has blood vessels running through it or if it presses on a nearby nerve; it may also interfere with muscle growth if it’s unusually deep.
While many lipomas occur in locations that are easily hidden by clothes, some lipomas grow in plain sight. They can form on the temples or forehead, on the front of the neck, along the wrist or forearm, above or behind the knee, or even on the palm of the hand.
Lipoma excision surgery
The thin, fibrous capsule that surrounds a lipoma makes surgical excision relatively simple. In most cases, Dr. Serrano can numb the area with a local anesthetic, make a small incision over the growth, and gently squeeze the lipoma out.
Larger lipomas may require regional anesthesia to numb specific nerves prior to surgery. While liposuction can be a useful approach for larger lipomas, Dr. Serrano performs standard surgical excision whenever possible because it’s less likely to result in recurrence (regrowth).
To learn more about lipoma removal at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy, call 602-393-1299 or use the easy online booking tool to schedule a visit with Dr. Serrano today.