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A lipoma is a benign tumor or lump found just under the surface of the skin. Symptoms of lipoma are related to the size, location and feel of the lump. They are usually soft to the touch and typically quite small. These tumors can be painful, but are generally not uncomfortable. Lipomas are most commonly located in the neck, stomach, upper thigh, arms and shoulders.
When this type of soft tissue tumor is touched, it may move around and feel a lot like a small ball of dough. The ability to move the lump is one of the best ways to distinguish lipomas from other types of tumors. While some can grow quite large, the vast majority are less than 2 inches (5 cm) wide. One of the more rare symptoms of lipoma is pain. Most lumps are not painful to the touch, but can be if they are pressing on a nerve or are made up of many blood vessels.
The cause of a lipoma is an overgrowth of adipose tissue between the muscles and skin. The lump is not cancerous, but there may be more than one in the body at any given time. The most common age for a person experience these tumors is in his or her 40s and 50s, although they can appear at any age. Soft tissue tumors are very rare in young children. While the presence of excess fatty tissue appears to run in families, the exact cause is not known.
Approximately one percent of the population will experience a fatty tissue tumor in their lifetime. Sometimes, these tumors will develop after an injury to the site or due to a chromosomal issue. Many lumps have been growing slowly for years before they become noticeable. Some scientific researchers believe that it is possible for benign lipomas to turn into cancerous tumors, but much more research is required in this area.
While the symptoms of lipoma can be concerning, these types of tumors are rarely dangerous and can be easily removed. It is not usually necessary to remove the lump is unless it becomes painful or unsightly. In rare cases, tumors can develop in the bowels and cause an intestinal blockage that will require immediate care. Any type of lump or mass in the body should be checked by a qualified medical professional. Diagnosis is typically achieved via analysis of the symptoms of lipoma and an ultrasound of the area.
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