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Lipoma

A lipoma is a non-cancerous tumour with slowly growing fat cells under the skin in the subcutaneous tissue. It is the most common form of soft tissue tumor. The growth occurs over several years. They are very common in people of all ages, and are most noticeable during middle age. A person may show single or multiple lipomas. Both sexes are affected equally, solitary lipomas are more common in women where as men frequently show multiple lipomas.
Causes of lipoma: The exact cause of lipoma is unclear. A familial incidence has been noted in patients with lipomas which emphasizes a genetic reason for lipomas. Sometimes an injury such as a blunt blow to part of the body may act as a trigger for lipoma growth. Being overweight does not cause lipomas.

Signs and symptoms: A lipoma is not cancer and is usually harmless. Most lipomas are symptomless; they may not show any symptoms until they are large enough to become visible and palpable. Some are painful on applying pressure. Lipomas that are tender or painful are usually angiolipomas, which shows increased number of small blood vessels. They most common sites for lipomas are on the shoulders, neck, trunk and arms, but they can occur in any part of the body with fat including the internal organs. Lipomas rarely cause pain. However, a person with a lipoma can have some pain if the lipoma presses on the nerves.

Types of Lipoma

Conventional lipoma, hibernoma, fibrolipoma, angiolipoma, myelolipoma, pleomorphic lipoma, atypical lipoma and spindle cell lipoma are some varieties of lipomas.

Spindle cell lipoma is an asymptomatic, slow-growing subcutaneous tumor that can be found on the posterior back, neck, and shoulders of older men. Spindle cell lipoma is a specific type of lipoma that is easily mistaken for a liposarcoma. Liposarcoma is a rare form of fatty cancer, which never arises in the skin. They are mostly grows on thigh, groin or at the back of the abdomen.

Abdominal lipomas: A lipoma may develop in the gut wall and cause problems such as pain or a blockage of the gut.

Lipoma of the breast is a benign, usually solitary tumor composed of mature fat cells, it often causes diagnostic uncertainity.

A neck lipoma typically is a benign tumor that is usually not considered serious. A lump like this also may be indicative of liposarcoma. It is better to make sure that the lump is not because of a serious medical condition.

Lipoma treatments:

The treatment of a lipoma is not necessary due to its benign nature, and it need not be removed unless the tumor becomes painful or restricts movement. Lipoma removal is mainly done for cosmetic reasons, or the growth is very large, or to distinguish from the dangerous type of tumor such as a liposarcoma.

Most fatty lipomas stop growing and remain indefinitely without causing any problems. But occasionally, lipoma removal surgery is done for lipomas that interfere with the movement of adjacent muscles. Several treatment methods are available for lipomas:
  • Simple surgical excision of lipomas using squeeze technique: A small incision is made over the lipoma and the fatty tissue is squeezed through the hole.
  • Liposuction: This treatment uses a needle and a large syringe to remove the fatty lump.
  • Steroid injections: This treatment shrinks the lipoma but usually doesn't completely eliminate the tumor.
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