A lipoma is a growth of fat cells in a thin, fibrous capsule found just below the skin. Lipomas are not cancerous and don’t become cancer. These are nonpainful, round, mobile masses with a soft doughy feel are found most often on the torso, upper thighs, upper arms, neck, and armpits, but can occur almost anywhere.
Symptoms of Lipomas
Lipomas do not cause pain, and often the most bothersome symptom you will experience is feeling unattractive or encumbered by the placement and size of a lipoma. You will also notice your lipomas are soft to the touch, movable, and grow very slowly or not at all. If your lipoma is fast-growing, you should call your doctor and have it removed.
Diagnosing a lipoma is pretty straightforward; a doctor will diagnose a lipoma by appearance. However, they will usually want to remove it to ensure it isn’t cancerous. If your lipoma is painful, gets infected, or bothers you, your doctor will remove it. If they don’t see removal as necessary, they may order an imaging test to examine it.
Lipoma Surgery Removal Process
If your lipoma is less than one inch in diameter, a nurse or doctor will inject a steroid into the center of its fatty tissue. This process may be repeated multiple times at monthly intervals. The steroid causes fat atrophy in your lipoma, taking its effect over the following three or four weeks after it is injected. If the lipoma is too large to be injected with the amount of steroid required fo it to clear itself, you have three surgical options to get your lipoma removed.
The three types of lipoma removal:
- Enucleation is a minimally invasive lipoma surgery done for smaller lipomas. A surgeon or doctor makes a very small incision just over your lipoma. A curette (a metal medical tool with a loop on each side) is placed inside the incision and gently moved around so that the lipoma is carefully separated from any of your surrounding tissues. Then the lipoma material is pulled through the small incision. Stitches are not necessary. A special type of pressure gauze is placed over your wound to help prevent blood clots from forming.
- Excision is the most common type of lipoma surgery. A doctor or nurse will numb you with a topical numbing agent as well as an injection in the area affected by the lipoma. Then, a surgeon uses a scalpel to make an incision through your skin and fatty tissue, lifting it up and removing the lipoma with a metal gripping instrument. Your tissue in the hole is examined for any remaining materials by the surgeon, or in medical terms, “palpated”. This palpation is done to ensure there is no more lipoma remaining. Pressure is applied to control the bleeding, and then the surgeon will suture your wound with stitches and leave them to heal for two weeks before removing them. Over the next 1-2 weeks, you will experience mild soreness in that area. Although you can return to work after one day’s rest, it is important that during your recovery you try not to overdo yourself with exercise and activity. Too much movement can cause the sutures to tear and your resulting scar to widen.
- Liposuction? As in plastic surgery liposuction? Yes. Liposuction is a cosmetic procedure that drains the fat out of the body through inserted hollow tubes attached to a suction device.
Who is Affected by Lipomas?
Lipomas affect people of all ages and groups, but if you are an adult between the ages of forty and sixty years old, you are the most common group affected by lipomas. If you are a woman you are more likely to be affected by a solitary lipoma, or in other words, only one lipoma present on the body. Some lipomas are thought to have been brought about by blunt trauma. If you are a man, you are more likely to have multiple lipomas present on your body, or what is referred to as lipomatosis. Lipomatosis is, you guessed it– A “tosis” of lipoma. The suffix -tosis is Greek. It means an abnormal or diseased condition or increase, but it also means an invasion, an infestation. If you are a man, and you have the gene required to inherit hereditary multiple lipomatosis, you will have widespread symmetric lines of lipomas appearing all over your extremities and trunk. If your lipomatosis is symmetrical, it will give your body a “pseudo-athletic” appearance. Madelung’s disease (different from Madelung’s deformity, which results in malformed hands and bones) is characterized by extensively large lipomas present on your head, neck and shoulder girdle area. It can contribute to giving you a “hamster cheeks” appearance if there are lipomas on or around your face, or if you have an overgrowth on your cervical region (your neck) it can give you a “horse-collar” appearance. There is also a possibility of lipomas accumulating fatty tissue on your back, resulting in a “buffalo hump.” People with Madelung’s disease are usually men, and often they are men who consume alcohol. Rarely, the lipomas caused by Madelung’s disease can cause difficulty swallowing, respiratory difficulty, and even sudden death in some cases.
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