A lipoma is a ‘fatty’ lump that commonly occurs under the skin. It occurs in 1% of the population and is the commonest tumour arising from soft tissue with equal incidence in male and female sex. A lipoma is a non-cancerous lump though in extremely rare case lipoma has been described to transform to cancerous lump called ‘liposarcoma’. There is no convincing scientific evidence to support this. In the collective experience of over 60 years of our group and after removal of over 1000 lipomas we have not seen a single malignant (cancerous) lipoma. A lipoma can occur in any part of the body but are common on limbs, shoulder and the back. It is normally slow-growing and painless and presents as a soft lobulated lump under the skin. The size can vary from under a centimetre to more than 10 centimetres in size. Occasionally lipomas can be multiple and may even run in the family. Multiple lipomas should be distinguished from a rare condition known as neurofibromatosis which is also present with multiple lumps under the skin, but these originate from nerve endings.
Lipomas can also occur in other locations of the body such as muscles, stomach, and intestine. These rarely cause any clinical problem and are outside the scope of this information
Lipomas are usually removed for cosmetic reasons. Other indications for removal include: pain (rare), rapid growth, hindrance in carrying out daily activity and concerns about malignant transformation.
Excision of lipoma is a straightforward day case procedure that can be performed under local anaesthetic. The patients are able to go home after a few hours and can normally return to work immediately. The skin is sutured using a dissolvable stitch that does not require removal. Occasionally skin glue is used to close small wounds after surgery.
The wound is checked after a few weeks following the surgery. No further follow-up is normally required if the healing is satisfactory.