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5 Things You Need to Know About Lipomas

By Contributor ; Updated August 14, 2017

All Bumps are not Cancer

Lipomas are fatty tumors. They are collections of fat set off from the tissue around them by a small membrane. They can be large or small and can occur anywhere there is subcutaneous fat. And they can scare the pants off someone when first discovered because they stick up like something that just HAS to be bad. They aren't. Unless their position or size causes pain, ignore them. A lipoma is benign.

Some Folks are Just Bumpy

It is not known what causes lipomas. There is a familial tendency to form them. There are some familial syndromes associated with large numbers of lipomas. Obesity does not cause lipomas. Rarely, trauma will appear to trigger a lipoma's appearance, but no one has established a cause and effect relationship between these two events. There is no evidence to support the belief that lipomas can transform into liposarcomas, a lipoma's malignant cousin. There is also no evidence that any foods cause lipomas. Lipomas occur most frequently in middle age. Men are more likely to have multiple lipomas, but otherwise there is no difference between men and women.

That's Ugly!

The most common symptom associated with a lipoma is simply its appearance. Some people are very conscious of having a bump, even a small one. If a lipoma sits close to a joint, it may inhibit proper excursion of that joint. If a lipoma is close to a nerve, it may apply pressure to the nerve and cause pain. Rarely, a lipoma will be in a location that causes difficulty in the function of a particular organ.

When to Do Something

There are certain circumstances that should not be ignored even with benign, old lipomas. If a lipoma becomes painful or tender, suddenly begins to increase in size, develops a discharge of any kind but particularly one that is purulent or smelly, becomes infected, or interferes with function, you should see your doctor.

The Only Treatment

There are no magic ways to dissolve lipomas. Diets, vitamins, herbs, heat, cold, and special creams will not make a lipoma vanish. The only way to treat a lipoma is to remove it, and the only way to remove it is through local surgery. This is an office procedure requiring only local anesthesia. On a very rare occasion, a lipoma will be large enough or in an unusual enough position to require general anesthesia.

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