A lipoma is a benign (noncancerous) soft tissue tumor that develops just beneath the skin. Made mostly of fat cells, this abnormal, rubbery growth can appear almost anywhere on the body. The average lipoma is painless, small, grows slowly, and doesn’t require treatment.
But sometimes, a lipoma may grow — and keep growing — until it’s uncomfortably large. In such cases, Dr. Johnny L. Serrano, your board-certified general surgeon in Glendale, Arizona, offers minimally invasive lipoma removal services at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy. Here’s what you should know.
A lipoma is an atypical mass of fat cells encased in a fibrous capsule. Although this harmless growth can appear almost anywhere in the body where there are fat cells, most develop within the layer of subcutaneous fat that’s situated between your skin and muscle tissues.
The typical lipoma is:
A lipoma is a self-contained growth that’s surrounded by a thin membrane. In addition to preventing the fatty cluster from invading nearby tissues, the encapsulating membrane makes the fat cell formation appear symmetrical: Most lipomas are round, oval, or dome shaped.
Unlike subcutaneous cancer tumors, lipomas aren’t firm or hard; they’re soft, rubbery, pliable, and yielding, meaning they move easily with a gentle push of the finger.
The average lipoma develops slowly, pushing outward toward your skin layer gradually — often taking several months or even years to fully emerge.
Most lipomas are small and fixed, meaning they measure less than two inches in diameter and don’t continue growing once they’re stable, or have reached their final apparent size.
The average lipoma is completely painless — it doesn’t contain blood vessels or press into nerves, and it doesn’t bulge enough to make the skin feel uncomfortably taut. Apart from its appearance, most people aren’t bothered by having one.
Sometimes, a lipoma that begins as “average and typical” changes and becomes atypical. In most cases, these changes involve growth that makes the lipoma:
Lipomas can grow two or three times the average size, measuring up to six inches in diameter — and in some cases even larger. Depending on its location, a growing lipoma may cause cosmetic concerns.
If it begins to press on nearby nerves and blood vessels, a growing lipoma can also cause pain and growing discomfort. Less commonly, a growing lipoma becomes painful when it expands inward and puts pressure on adjacent muscle tissue.
A previously unproblematic lipoma can become constraining as it grows larger, especially if it’s in an awkward location (neck, palm, forearm, forehead, knee). A larger lipoma that’s usually hidden by clothing can also be constraining if its location (waist, bra strap line) makes clothing less comfortable.
If your lipoma is changing and growing uncomfortably big — or if it’s been atypically large or painful from the start — Dr. Serrano can remove the rubbery growth in a quick and minimally invasive in-office procedure.
A lipoma’s fibrous encasement makes its surgical excision relatively easy. Most of the time, Dr. Serrano can simply numb the area with a local anesthetic, make a very small incision over the growth, and gently lift the lipoma out.
Before removing a larger lipoma, Dr. Serrano may have to administer a regional anesthetic to numb specific nerves. The removal process is otherwise the same; Dr. Serrano aims to minimize scarring by making an incision that’s just large enough to pull the lipoma through.
While some physicians use liposuction to remove larger lipomas, Dr. Serrano prefers surgical excision whenever possible because it’s less likely to result in recurrence (regrowth).
You don’t have to live with a bothersome lipoma. Call to learn more about the lipoma removal services at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy in Glendale, Arizona, or use the easy online booking feature to schedule a visit with Dr. Serrano today.