As a little girl, I was always intrigued by a lump on my grandfather’s forearm. I couldn’t help but notice it each time he reached for a card as we played Gin Rummy.
It was firm but moveable, the size of a quarter and did not hurt him at all when I pushed on it. He told me it was nothing, a fatty spot that never bothered him.
Lipomas are just that, an accumulation of fat encapsulated into a small fibrous capsule under the skin. They usually are benign but they should still be evaluated by a doctor to make sure.
It is unclear why lipomas develop. One theory is that they are the result of some type of trauma to the area but it is also thought that that the tendency towards developing them is genetic.
Over 50 percent of lipomas appear in the subcutaneous skin layer but they can also occur inside the body in areas such as the esophagus, the intestines, the pelvic cavity or the bronchial tubes.
Lipomas inside the body can be more serious and may require surgical attention.Subcutaneous lipomas typically occur on the torso, the neck, under the arm, on the upper arm or thigh.
Diagnosis and Treatment:
Lipomas that appear between the skin and underlying tissue usually do not need treatment or removal unless they are causing some type of symptoms such as becoming painful or inflamed or if they continue to grow larger.
If a doctor suspects the tumor is not a lipoma, he will biopsy a sample and send it to a lab to be examined or send you for an ultrasound or MRI. Some people have lipomas removed for cosmetic reasons but since they are not cancerous, it is a personal decision.
A doctor can remove a lipoma as an office procedure or in an out patient surgery center provided the lipoma is not deep in the fascia, otherwise regular surgery may be needed. He will anesthetize the area first and the incision area will be sutured closed after the surgery. It is important to follow any post-operative instructions the doctor gives to prevent infection.
Use of steroid injections or liposuction are not thought to work as well to reduce or remove the lipoma as complete removal of the capsule surrounding the lipoma will prevent reoccurrence.
Periodically, I see someone with a lipoma on his or her arm. I always think of my grandpa and those days we played cards together.
Lipoma - Topic Overview. WebMD. Web. 21 Sept. 2011. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/tc/lipoma-topic-overview
Lipoma. MayoClinic.com. Web. 21 Sept. 2011.http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/lipoma/DS00634
Lipomas. Medscape Reference. Web. 21 Sept. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/191233-overview
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles
Edited by Jody Smith
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Great article Michele! Thank you. So many with lipomas are do not have enough knowledge on treatment options. We are trying to educate the community through www.lipoma.net and working with experts like yourself to try and get the highest possible content for education to the community. If you would like to help contribute to the content and become an recognized author in the lipoma space please reach out to me via the contact form on our website. Thank you again for this very clear article. Chris baldwin, PhD.January 27, 2015 - 2:04pm