When you first noticed the round, fatty mound growing just beneath your skin, you probably wondered what it could be, why it developed, and how it might affect your health. But your worries eased when you were diagnosed with a simple lipoma — a common, harmless growth that doesn’t require treatment, unless it’s growing or bothersome.
Here, Dr. Johnny L. Serrano, board-certified general surgeon in Glendale, Arizona, explains why the average lipoma doesn’t require medical care or intervention, and discusses when you might consider having a minimally invasive lipoma removal procedure at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy.
Characteristics of the average lipoma
A lipoma is a mass of fat cells that are held together by a fibrous capsule encasement. This abnormal, benign (noncancerous) growth can appear anywhere in the body where there are fat cells, but most develop in the layer of subcutaneous fat between your skin and muscles.
Lipomas frequently appear on the neck, shoulders, back, abdomen, arms, and thighs. While they can contain blood vessels and other types of tissues, the average lipoma — or the kind most people develop — consists of white, energy-storing fat cells.
Known as a conventional lipoma, this growth is typically:
- A round or oval symmetrical dome
- Soft, rubbery, pliable, and yielding
- Small; two inches or less in diameter
- Stable (non-growing) and painless
If these qualities apply to your lipoma, and if you don’t find your lipoma to be bothersome in any other way, including aesthetically, it probably doesn’t require treatment of any kind.
When a lipoma becomes concerning
In most cases, the average, typical lipoma remains exactly that for life. It doesn’t change, start causing bothersome symptoms, or become more noticeable, and it doesn’t require any type of at-home care or even periodic medical evaluations. It’s something you simply live with.
Still, it’s possible for an average lipoma to change and become more atypical over time. In most cases, these changes involve abnormal growth that makes the lipoma:
- Very large; up to six inches in diameter
- Painful or tender if it presses on nerves
- Conspicuous because of its size increase
- Constraining if it’s in an awkward area
For example, a very small lipoma that’s on your forehead, neck, palm, forearm, or knee can become problematic or bothersome if it starts growing; likewise, a growing lipoma on your waist or bra strap line can make clothing less comfortable.
How we remove a problematic lipoma
If your trouble-free lipoma ever grows uncomfortably large, Dr. Serrano can remove the fatty mass in a quick, minimally invasive in-office procedure. While some doctors use liposuction to remove bigger lipomas, Dr. Serrano prefers surgical excision because it’s less likely to result in recurrence (lipoma regrowth).
Because your lipoma is encased in a fibrous capsule, its excision is relatively straightforward: Dr. Serrano simply numbs the area with a local or regional anesthetic, makes a very small incision over the growth, and gently lifts the lipoma out.
If you have questions about lipomas, we have answers. Call 623-321-5663 to reach Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy today, or click online to schedule a visit with Dr. Serrano any time.