Lipoma

Overview

This is one of the most common benign skin lumps. A lipoma is a tumour formed by fat cells. Most cases of lipoma are found just beneath the skin, and these are mostly benign. However, a large lipoma that is found deep in the body may be cancerous in nature, or has the potential to turn into a cancer.

Symptoms

The most common symptom is a lump underneath the skin, noticed by the patient, or sometimes by the patient’s family, particularly if the lipoma is situated over the back. It is mostly painless, but occasionally may be painful especially in cases where there is a family history. The person may also notice a slow increase in size of the lump.

In some cases, especially when there is a family history of lipoma, the person may notice more than one lump in his body. The common sites for lipoma are the trunk and the limbs.

When to seek treatment

Small subcutaneous (this refers to the fat layer beneath the skin) lipoma is mostly benign. However surgery may be desired if it causes pain. Surgery is also advised if it affects function. An example will be a lipoma of the arms, and the lump disturbs the patient when he writes.

If the lump becomes progressively bigger, surgery may also be advised. Some patients desire to have the lump removed simply because it is unsightly, causing an obvious bulge.

If there is some uncertainty about the nature of a lump, do consult your doctor before deciding that leaving it alone is a safe option. Do not assume that all skin lumps are harmless.

Diagnosis

Surgical removal is the definitive treatment. If the lipoma is small, removal can be performed as a simple day-surgery procedure under local anaesthesia. Sometimes, some patients may come to us with a huge lipoma, which can be more than 20cm in diameter. For such large lumps, it is sometimes more comfortable for the patient to have the lump removed under general anaesthesia.

A lipoma located at the shoulder

Treatment

Surgical removal is the definitive treatment. If the lipoma is small, removal can be performed as a simple day-surgery procedure under local anaesthesia. Sometimes, some patients may come to us with a huge lipoma, which can be more than 20cm in diameter. For such large lumps, it is sometimes more comfortable for the patient to have the lump removed under general anaesthesia.

Causes

There is no specific cause for this tumour to form. Some cases may run in the family where affected individuals often have multiple lipomata (plural form of lipoma) found beneath the skin over the trunk and limbs.

Consult Our Doctors

Dr Chan Chungy Yip

Dr Chan Chung Yip

HepatoBiliary, Pancreas & General Surgeon

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Dr Jane Tan Jye Yng

Colorectal & General Surgeon

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Dr Lim Khong Hee

General Surgeon

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Dr Ho Choon Kiat

HepatoBiliary, Pancreas & General Surgeon

Urologist Singapore

Dr Lee Yee Mun

Senior Consultant Urologist

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