A lipoma is a fatty lump of tissue that grows slowly, and is found between the skin and the muscle tissue that lies underneath. The way in which you can tell the difference between a lipoma and another type of growth is that the former moves very easily when pushed at with the finger. The lump also feels like dough, and is not very tender. It is possible to get multiple lipomas, and they can occur at any age, although they are prevalent during middle age. Most patients are initially scared that it could be cancer, but it is not harmful, and treatment is not sought unless it unsettles the patient or becomes painful. In this case, the lipoma can be removed.
Lipomas are usually small and do not grow above 5 centimeters. However, they can grow and begin affecting surrounding nerves and blood vessels and this will cause some pain. The most prevalent areas of these growths include the neck, back, shoulders, arms, abdomen and thighs. Although a lipoma is harmless, you should always let your doctor diagnose the cause of any lumps that appear on your body.
The real reason why lipomas occur is not known, even if there is strong evidence that it could be genetic. The condition is common in family lines. There are events that can be said to increase chances of developing the conditions and these are:
- Injury – this can cause a lipoma to develop.
- Garner Syndrome – people with multiple lipomatosis will develop several lipomas in life.
- Adiposis dolorosa – could lead to multiple lipomas.
- Madelung disease – people with this disease are likely to develop lipomas.
- Cowden syndrome – another condition that leads to the growth of lipomas.
There seems to be no other known cause of lipomas.
How is the diagnosis done?
The doctor will need a detailed medical history from you. He or she will check to see if there are people in your family who have suffered from lipomas in the past. The doctor will then take parameters of the lipoma such as size density and mobility. He will then ask that you undergo the following procedures:
- A Biopsy – The doctor will take a small tissue sample of the affected area and then study it under the microscope. This will enable him to see what kind of tissue constitutes the lump. After the biopsy, the cells are examined for malignancy.
- A Computed Tomography (CT) scan – this is to record the existence of the fatty tissue.
- A Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan – This will give a high definition image of the fatty lump, and is the best to use when you need proper confirmation that it is a lipoma and not a cancerous growth. If you use this method, then you may not need a biopsy.
Currently there are two methods that can be used to treat lipoma and these are:
Observation – Since the lipoma is not a harmful growth, most people prefer to observe them and see if they will disappear on their own. The most important thing is to keep seeing the doctor who will ensure that the lipoma does not grow any more, by checking the parameters on every visit. Even if the lump should grow, it is not a medical emergency, and the choice of removal is left to the affected patient.
Surgery – Excision, or surgery, is used to remove the lipoma. This is a simple procedure and local anesthesia is used to numb the area. The doctor will then make a small incision in the skin, through which it is removed. Where the lipoma is very large, the patient may be put under general anesthesia as opposed to local anesthesia. After the surgery, the patients are sent home, and the stitches are removed after the skin has healed. Rarely do lipomas grow back, but should they grow again, excision is the best procedure to follow. Individuals will get back to their normal lives depending on the size and location of the lipoma.
Liposuction – It is possible to remove a lipoma through liposuction. A small needle is inserted into the fatty lump of tissue, and then suction pressure is applied to the needle. This will suck out the fatty tissue of the lipoma. However, this method may still leave dome of the fatty tissue underneath the skin.
Surgical removal of lipomas is said to be the best option but most people do not want to go through the expense of a surgery yet the growth is not harmful. However, if the lipoma develops a lot of blood vessels, or lies against a bunch of nerves, it can become very painful. In this case, the patient needs to have the lipoma removed.
There are no drugs that can change the growth of a lipoma, or stop it from growing.
Lipoma removal cost
The cost can vary from $100 to 100o dollars depend on the complexity of the procedure and the number of lumps to be removed. Insurance does not cover the cost, if lipoma excision is for cosmetic reasons. If the reason is medical in nature, the doctor has to give this in writing to the insurance company for the claim to be processed.
Here are images of lipoma, including excision and surgical removal