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What are Cysts and Lipomas?

It can be a huge relief to find out that the abnormal lump beneath your skin is a benign growth rather than a cancerous tumor. Being diagnosed with a harmless cyst or lipoma may be a bit of welcome news, but it may also leave you wondering: what are these growths, exactly, and what can you do about them? 

As a board-certified general surgeon who specializes in treating problematic cysts and lipomas, Johnny L. Serrano, DO, FACOS offers in-office cyst and lipoma removal at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy in Glendale, Arizona. 

Here’s what you should know about these common and highly treatable bumps. 

What are lipomas?

A lipoma is a slow-growing mass of fatty tissue that’s encased in a round, fibrous capsule. Situated between your skin and underlying muscle tissue, a lipoma pushes outward to form a visible bump that may — or may not — get larger over time. 

Although there are various lipoma subtypes, the average lipoma is:

Lipomas can appear virtually anywhere on your body, but they emerge most often along the shoulders, neck, forehead, back, abdomen, arms, or thighs. Unlike cancerous tumors, they develop very slowly and tend to remain relatively small; most lipomas measure less than two inches in diameter.  

How are cysts different?

Like lipomas, cysts are slow-growing lumps beneath the skin that move easily with a bit of gentle pressure. But unlike lipomas, the sacs that form cysts don’t contain a collection of fat cells — they hold keratin, an important skin protein that has an oily, cheese-like texture. 

Skin cells that aren’t shed properly become cysts when they migrate to your deep epidermal layers and multiply. After they form an enclosed sac, these wayward skin cells secrete keratin into the middle of the sac, where it concentrates into a thick, yellow paste.  

While cysts that arise from other types of cells may be filled with different substances, many are marked by a dark “plug” that oozes pus under pressure. The average cyst is:

Epidermoid (skin) cysts and pilar (hair follicle) cysts are the most common types. While skin and hair follicle cysts can appear anywhere, they tend to form on the face, neck, and torso. Pilonidal cysts, which are also relatively common, emerge at the top cleft of the buttocks.   

Treatment solutions

Lipomas and cysts are usually inconspicuous and totally harmless. In fact, most lipomas and cysts don’t require medical care or attention of any kind, apart from watchful waiting to see if they change or grow. 

Lipomas and cysts that are prominent, irritating, or problematic, on the other hand, are often removed surgically.

Lipoma removal 

Surgical removal is an ideal treatment solution for lipomas that are:

To remove an uncomplicated lipoma, Dr. Serrano numbs the area, makes a small incision, and gently squeezes out the lipoma capsule. Larger lipomas or lipomas that contain blood vessels may need to be excised in sections. 

Cyst removal

Surgical removal may be the best option for cysts that are:

A cyst that’s infected (sore, swollen, red, or oozing foul-smelling pus) or ruptured requires prompt medical attention. Complete surgical removal is only an option once inflammation is under control and the infection has cleared. 

Call 602-393-1304 to learn more about in-office lipoma or cyst removal at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy, or simply click online to schedule a visit with Dr. Serrano today. 


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