Lipomas are benign tumors that consist mostly of fat cells. More frequently found in middle aged people, lipomas usually grow slowly beneath a person’s skin in the subcutaneous tissue. They are often not visible until they reach a relatively large size. At this point, they feel rubbery, soft, and doughy beneath the skin.
Lipomas are usually found on neck, back, shoulder, and arms, though they can appear on other parts of the body as well. In addition, men are more likely to have multiple lipomas than women, though both sexes are equally likely to have single occurrences. The cause of lipomas is not yet known. Most experts believe there is a genetic link to their growth, however, as they tend to run in families. In addition, injuries such as a blow to the body in the affected area appear to trigger their growth.
For the most part, it is not necessary to treat lipomas. Since they are not cancerous growths and will not become cancerous, they generally do not present a health problem. There are, however, a few cases in which lipomas should be treated. In general, treatment of lipomas consists of surgical removal.
Lipomas may need to be removed if they cause the person pain or feel tender. In addition, lipomas that become inflamed or infected, which is identified by a foul smelling discharge, can threaten a person’s health. Therefore, it may be necessary to remove them. There are no known treatment strategies for preventing limpomas. If they suddenly increase in size, however, or if they make it difficult for a person to move or to function properly, they may need to be removed.
Some patients wish to have lipomas removed simply because they are unsightly. In this case, insurance companies usually do not cover the expense. If lipomas cause pain, restrict movement, or become infected, however, they are a medical concern, and their removal should be covered by most insurance plans.
Removal of lipomas usually takes place in a doctor’s office or an outpatient surgery center. To remove them, the doctor administers a local anesthesia in the area around the liplomas. He or she then makes an incision in the skin in order to remove the growth. If liplomas are located too deep in the skin, however, it is necessary to operate on the growth while the patient is under general anesthesia.