Lipomas are soft, fatty lumps that grow under the skin. They vary in size: the smallest lipomas can be a few millimeters, while the biggest lipomas can grow to over 6 centimeters. Genetic factors influence their development, and therefore can be diagnosed in people of various ages.
Lipomas can form under the skin, in the abdominal cavity, pelvis, glands and other body parts. Most often they appear on the neck, back, chest, arms and legs.
It is thought that the risk of lipomas becoming malignant (cancerous) is very low (approximately 0.5%); therefore they are not usually treated, unless there are specific complaints, such as physical, psychological or aesthetic reasons.
Lipomas must be removed immediately when:
- Their size, colour or shape change
- Pain is experienced
- They grow larger than 5 centimetres
- The lump gets caught on clothes
- Liposarcoma or sebaceous cysts is suspected
- Other concerning symptoms appear
Patients should know that malignant tumour symptoms are similar to lipomas. Liposarcoma is a hard lump usually larger than 5 centimetres that has grown into the muscle tissue and often causes a skin reaction (redness, rash, stretching). Liposarcoma must be removed as quickly as possible and analysed in the pathology laboratory. Sometimes you might need an ultrasound scan of the area.
If any lipoma increases in size or becomes painful, you must tell the doctor, as it can be a sign that the lipoma is changing.
Intervention methods for each patient are chosen individually according to the location of the lump, its size and other factors. These procedures will be carried out by surgeons.
It is a good idea to see a doctor if you notice a new lump or swelling.