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A lipoma is a growth of fat
cells in a thin, fibrous capsule usually found just below the skin. Lipomas are
found most often on the torso, neck, upper thighs, upper arms, and armpits, but
they can occur almost anywhere in the body. One or more lipomas may be present
at the same time. Lipomas are the most common noncancerous soft tissue
The cause of lipomas is not
completely understood, but the tendency to develop them is inherited. A minor
injury may trigger the growth. Being overweight does not cause lipomas.
Often the most bothersome symptom is the location or
increased size that makes the lipoma noticeable by others.
A lipoma can usually be
diagnosed by its appearance alone, but your health professional may want to
remove it to make sure the growth is noncancerous.
Lipomas do not generally
require treatment. Because lipomas are not cancerous growths and cannot become
cancerous, they do not need to be removed. There is no known treatment to
prevent lipomas or affect their growth.
A lipoma may be surgically
removed if symptoms develop, such as if the lipoma:
Most lipomas can be removed in the doctor's office or
outpatient surgery center. The doctor injects a
local anesthetic around the lipoma, makes an incision
in the skin, removes the growth, and closes the incision with stitches
(sutures). If the lipoma is in an area of the body that cannot be easily
reached through a simple incision in the skin, the lipoma may need to be
removed in the operating room under
Lipomas occur in all
age groups but most often appear in middle age. Single lipomas occur with equal
frequency in men and women. Multiple lipomas occur more frequently in
Current as of:
March 12, 2014
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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