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Why do I need my lipoma removed?

I have a lipoma and my doctor wants to remove it. Do I need to have that treatment?

Lipomas are non cancerous lumps caused by an overgrowth of fat cells. To help you understand more about lipomas, and why they sometimes need removing, you can go to the following sections about

 

What a lipoma is

A lipoma is a non cancerous (benign) lump that forms due to an overgrowth of fat cells. You can get a lipoma anywhere on the body where you have fat cells.

 

Who gets lipomas

Lipomas (also called lipomata) are fairly common. About 1 in 100 people (1%) will develop a lipoma. We don’t know what causes them, but some people develop them because of an inherited faulty gene. This condition is known as familial multiple lipomatosis. This is not common. People with this condition will develop more than one lipoma. The exact number they have can vary but it can be several or many.

 

Symptoms of a lipoma?

Lipomas are usually just under the skin, and feel soft to touch. They are usually soft and shaped like a dome. Most lipomas don’t cause any pain or other symptoms. But this depends on where in the body it is. If a lipoma is deeper inside your body, you won’t be able to see or feel it. But it might press on other organs or nerves, and cause symptoms. For example, a lipoma might affect the bowel and can cause a blockage. If this happens you may become constipated and feel sick.

 

Diagnosing lipomas

To make a diagnosis your doctor will feel and look at your lump. In most cases your doctor can recognise and diagnose a lipoma easily this way. Sometimes you might need an ultrasound scan of the area. 

But rarely doctors can’t tell for certain whether the lump is a lipoma or not. Lipomas can be confused with malignant (cancerous) tumours, called liposarcomas. Your doctor may feel it is best to remove your lipoma, or take a biopsy from it so that they can be certain it is a lipoma.

 

What treatment do I need?

Lipomas don’t usually need removing. But in some cases you, or your doctor, might want your lipoma removed. This might be because

  • Your doctor wants to be certain it is a lipoma
  • Your lipoma is large, or is growing larger
  • Your lipoma is causing symptoms, for example by pressing on a nerve, or blocking the bowel

You may want to have your lipoma removed for cosmetic reasons – some people prefer to have them removed

You usually only need a small operation under local anaesthetic to remove a lipoma that’s under the skin. You may have a very slight scar once the wound has healed.

 

Can lipomas turn into cancer?

Lipomas are not cancer. Cancerous tumours of the fat cells are called liposarcomas. They are a type of soft tissue sarcoma. In most cases, these do not start from a lipoma. It is very rare for lipomas to turn into a cancerous sarcoma. But it is important to tell your doctor if your lipoma changes in any way or if you get any new lumps.

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Updated: 4 March 2015