Lipoma - Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
What is Lipoma
A Lipoma is basically a benign growth composed of fat tissues that can develop anywhere in the body. Lipoma grows just beneath the layer of the skin and it is the most common form of soft tissue tumor.
It is non - cancerous in nature and usually causes no harm to the body. These can be removed by the process of excision if they grow in size or gets painful. Chances of lipomas turning cancerous are very little.
Lipomas can occur anywhere in the body, but the most common areas are the armpit, torso, neck, upper portion of the thighs, chest and upper arms. Middle aged individuals (40 – 60 years) are highly susceptible to develop lipoma. Lipomas are generally pea sized and may reach up to 3 cm. They grow very slowly and are movable, having rubber like consistency.
Types of lipoma
Lipomas are of various types based on the way they appear under the microscope. The variation is basically in the way they appear but not much difference exists in the composition. The various types include :
- Adenolipomas – This is associated with the eccrine sweat glands.
- Conventional – This is the most common type and consists of mature white fat.
- Hibernoma – This is made up of brown fat.
- Fibrolipoma – This is made up of fat and fibrous tissue.
- Angiolipoma – This type largely consists of blood vessels and fat tissues.
- Myelolipoma – This is made up of fat and those tissues that make blood vessels.
- Spindle cell lipoma – Cells that are rod shaped. Such type of lipoma is seen in the elderly population; men being the most affected group.
- Intradermal spindle cell lipoma – Such type is seen most commonly in women.
- Pleomorphic lipoma – These are of different shapes and sizes.
- Atypical lipoma – This is made up of deeper fat with large number of cells.
- Neural lipoma – Made up of fibro – fatty tissue.
Causes of lipoma
The exact cause of lipoma is unknown; however several factors have been identified to trigger its occurrence. These are
- Injury to any part of the body may cause development of lipoma in that area.
- Heredity – Lipoma is believed to run in families.
- In conditions of Gardner syndrome and hereditary, multiple lipomatosis triggers the development of multiple lipomas.
Symptoms of lipoma
Lipoma often goes unnoticed until it gets large enough to become visible . Symptoms of lipoma are many. These consist of :
- Lipomas are generally small in size, but in certain cases can grow as big as 20 cm and weigh several kg.
- They are soft and doughy to touch
- They are easily movable with slight finger pressure
- Lipomas can sometimes get painful; when they grow in size and exert pressure on the neighboring nerves.
- These are situated just beneath the skin and are easily felt by mild finger touch
Diagnosis of lipoma
Diagnosis of lipoma begins with a detailed history concerning the duration of lipoma development and its associated symptoms. The doctor would then carry out a physical examination of the lump for examining its size, consistency and its mobility . Once these are done, several other diagnostic procedures follow. These are:
- CT scan - Computed Tomography scan is done to record presence of fatty mass.
- MRI – Magnetic resonance Imaging gives better images of lipoma than CT scan. Often confirmatory diagnosis is done based on MRI and further diagnostic tests such as biopsy of the mass can be avoided.
- Biopsy: This procedure is at times required to confirm lipoma. Biopsy is done by taking a small tissue sample from the affected area and studied under the microscope. Biopsy often follows the process of excision, wherein after the removal of lipoma the tissues cells are studied for malignancy.
Treatment for lipoma
There are 2 treatment modes available: These are
- Observation: This is preferred mode of treatment when individuals do not wish to get lipomas removed. In such cases, it is very important that they regularly visit the doctor for monitoring any changes in the size and growth of lump.
- Surgery: A simple surgical procedure also known as excision is employed to remove the lipoma. Local anesthesia is applied to the area to make it numb followed by a small incision into the skin to aid removal of the tumor.
In cases where the lipoma is large enough then, general or regional anesthesia is given. Individuals are discharged immediately after the procedure and the stitches are removed within few weeks.
The size and location of the lipoma will decide how soon the individuals can get back to work. It is very rare for lipomas to grow back, and in case they do then excision is the best treatment mode available.