Lipoma is a benign (non-cancerous) tumor found in the layers between the skin and underlying muscle. Most forms of lipoma are innocuous and are not life threatening. These spots will move when touched and are typically painless. Pain caused by a lipoma can occur if the tumor pushes against nerves or if they contain a large amount of blood vessels.
The appearance of these growths resembles a lump under the skin and will feel "doughy" when touched. Lipomas can be located on different parts of the body but are generally located on the back, shoulders, neck, arms, armpits and thighs are usually less than two inches in diameter with reports of some becoming quite large. A lipoma forms over time, some individuals may have them for years before noticing them. An individual can have more than one lipoma with men being at higher risk for having multiples of these tumors at one time.
The causes of lipoma are not fully known. Injuries and heredity may play a factor in the formation of these small tumors. Obesity was once thought of as causing the growths but these claims have since been dismissed. Lipomas have also been linked to Madelung's disease and Gardner's syndrome.
The diagnosis for lipoma is a simple examination but a health care provider. Because lipoma resembles another tumor which is cancerous, liposarcoma, a doctor may perform a biopsy of the tumor. Liposarcoma are fast-growing tumors, typically painful and will not move when touched while a lipoma will either stay the same size or grow very slowly over a long period of time.
Most forms of lipoma do not require medical treatment. If the tumor is located in an area that causes pain, becomes infected or interferes with an individual's lifestyle, a doctor may suggest having the lipoma removed. Removal of the tumor can be done surgically by simply cutting the lipoma off or by liposuction. Liposuction and steroid injections can be used to avoid scarring but these treatments may not remove the tumor completely. Most of these growths can be removed in a physician's office or as an outpatient procedure.
Lipomas are the most common benign tumors found in adults however, what may appear as a lipoma may in fact be a more serious type of tumor. Early detection is important for treating tumors. Physicians urge individuals who discover any type of lumps on the skin to seek medical attention.