Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery MBChB (UCT).
Fellow of South African College of Surgeons
Diploma in Obstetrics & Gynaecology
WHAT IS A LIPOMA?
A lipoma is a small to medium-sized lump that arises from the growth of fat cells. Lipomas form either on the thighs, chest, shoulders, neck or armpits. These bumps may also develop inside organs, muscles or bones. When you press down on a lipoma, it appears soft and mobile. Usually, cosmetic surgery becomes a priority once you have concerns about the appearance of the bump. Surgery, however, is needed if the lipoma doesn’t stop growing or becomes painful and immovable.
What are some of the causes of lipomas?
Although most researchers are unable to determine the exact cause of lipomas, genetics is said to be the primary cause of these bumps. Familial multiple lipomatosis (FML) is a genetic disorder that occurs as a result of a faulty gene from one or both parents. This rare condition can result in the formation of one or several lipomas.
What are the signs of a lipoma?
Typically, lipomas appear soft and oval-shaped. Usually, lipomas are harmless. However, a lipoma found near the bowels can put pressure on internal organs. This pressure can induce nausea and constipation.
Dr Mitchell will diagnose a lipoma during a physical exam. During the exam, she will inspect and feel the bump. Should the lump appear unusually large or painful, the lipoma surgeon will order some tests to check whether or not the lipoma is cancerous. For one of these tests, the doctor will extract a sample of tissue from the lump to check for signs of cancer (called a biopsy). She may also conduct CT, MRI or ultrasound scans to confirm or rule out cancer.
Although a lipoma is often harmless, in some cases, the growth can cause pain. Once Dr Mitchell confirms the diagnosis of the lipoma, she will decide on a suitable treatment plan. Lipoma treatment depends on the following factors:
- The size and number of lipomas present
- Your medical history of skin cancer
- The level of pain as a result of the lipoma
In severe cases, lipoma surgery will be performed to remove the growth. Dr Mitchell will administer local anaesthetic and surgically extract the lipoma. She will then make a tiny incision in the skin and squeeze out the fatty tissue. For large lipomas, Dr Mitchell will create an extensive cut in the skin to remove the mass.
Recovery after the surgical removal of the lipoma depends on the location and size of the growth. Dr Mitchell will recommend that you avoid strenuous exercise and instead engage in light activity for at least two weeks after lipoma surgery.
Please note: The information provided above and on this website is for education and interest purposes only. It is not intended to replace a personal one-on-one consultation, nor is it meant to substitute professional medical advice, diagnose or treat any condition. A consultation with a specialist and qualified health care provider such as Dr Mitchell is essential for correct diagnosis and management, as well as to answer any queries that you may have. Never disregard or delay in seeking professional medical advice due to something you have read on this website. Dr Mitchell takes no responsibility for any errors or omissions present on this website and is not liable for any consequences that may occur from misinterpretation of the information on this website. In the event of uncertainty or an emergency, please visit your nearest casualty.