When you find a lump on your skin, it’s natural to be worried about cancer. But while cancerous tumors can cause some lumps, other lumps — called lipomas — are completely benign.
Lipomas are fatty growths (sometimes called soft tissue tumors) that typically form just under the surface of your skin, although some lipomas can form deeper in your body. While they’re generally not “dangerous” to your health, there are some circumstances where a lipoma does need to be removed.
A leading general surgeon in Deerfield Beach, Florida, Michael H. Tarlowe, MD, uses advanced diagnostics to evaluate lipomas and treat them when needed. If you have a lipoma, here’s when it might require medical treatment.
Quick facts about lipomas
Lipomas are very common, with a tendency to appear during middle age. Composed of fat cells, these benign tumors usually feel soft or “rubbery,” and almost moveable, under your skin.
Most lipomas form on the trunk, neck, or arms, but they can appear anywhere where fat cells are present. Less commonly, lipomas can form along muscles inside your body or in mucosal tissues that line your organs.
While medical researchers don’t know what causes lipomas, they have identified possible risk factors, including:
- Family history of lipomas
- Previous trauma to the area
- Glucose intolerance
- Liver disease
- Excess alcohol consumption
About 5-10% of people who have lipomas have more than one, sometimes associated with a genetic condition called familial lipomatosis.
When lipomas need treatment
A lipoma typically doesn’t require treatment unless it causes problems. For instance, if a lipoma presses on a nerve or if its location interferes with joint movement, then removal probably makes sense.
Lipomas located inside your body near or in an organ may need to be removed if they cause obstruction or otherwise interfere with normal organ function. Very large lipomas (called giant lipomas) can be removed if they cause you to feel self-conscious or make you physically uncomfortable.
Lipomas located under your skin can be removed during an outpatient procedure using a local anesthetic and sedation. If your lipoma is deeper, then Dr. Tarlowe may order an imaging study to evaluate it before recommending the optimal approach for removing it.
Have your lipoma evaluated
Bottom line: While you don’t usually need to worry about a lipoma, it’s important to have any skin lump or bump medically evaluated to ensure it’s not a more serious problem, like cancer or an infection. If your evaluation reveals you have a lipoma, there’s a good chance it won’t need any treatment unless it causes one of the problems listed above.
If you have a symptomatic lipoma or if you’d like to learn more about lipoma treatment, call 954-210-7127 or book an appointment online with Dr. Tarlowe today.