What is a lipoma?

A lipoma is generally a benign growth of fatty material within the body. In general, the body’s storage of fat is related to the amount of energy intake versus output of energy with activity. However, occasionally, a piece of fatty tissue can lose its regulation to what is going on with the rest of the body, and it grows exponentially. Therefore, collection of fat accumulates in an area, and it has no correlation if the patient is otherwise suffering from weight issues or not.

Lipomas are very common in the head and neck areas of the body. However, they also present themselves in the front and back of the body as well as occasionally on the arms and legs.

Most people with a lipoma present with asymmetry on one side of the neck or any other part of the body where the lipoma is growing. Upon palpating the growth, it usually feels very squishy and has a fatty consistency to it. Although occasionally needle biopsies or other x-rays and CT scans are done to confirm the diagnosis, most doctors are comfortable with making the diagnosis based on physical examination alone.

MRI image of a lipoma under the mandible (jawbone)

MRI image of a lipoma under the mandible (jawbone)

Unfortunately, there is no medical treatment for curing the lipoma. The only remedy is to undergo surgery to remove the entire growth. A lipoma usually has a well-defined capsule and is distinct from the rest of the fatty tissue within the body. Depending on the location and the size of the lipoma, this is usually done in an ambulatory type setting.

Surgical specimen of a lipoma

Surgical specimen of a lipoma

If you have a growth on your body that could be otherwise suspicious for lipoma, the best suggestion is to be evaluated by a surgeon. You can make plans for treatment after you have a full discussion.

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