What is a Lipoma?
A lipoma is a lump of fatty tissues that form right below the skin. They are soft, rubbery tissues that can be moved with the touch of a finger. They are also known as benign tumors as they stay in their primary location and don’t cause any kind of damage to the healthy tissues.
These fatty lumps grow at a very gradual rate and don’t turn cancerous. They are rarely painful and need treatment. But if a lipoma is bothering you in some way, you can always ask a doctor to remove it.
Why do lipomas form?
The causes for lipoma growths are still unknown, but they start to form due to the overgrowth of fat cells. Through various studies over the years, doctors have found that certain underlying medical conditions can increase the chances of developing these fatty lumps. In some conditions, you can even get multiple lipomas on different parts of your body. Lipoma-causing medical conditions are:
- Dercum’s disease, which is a rare disorder that causes painful lipomas to grow on the arms, legs, and trunk. It is also known as adiposis dolorosa or Anders’ syndrome.
- Gardner Syndrome is another condition that runs in families. Polyps start to form on the body along with lipomas and have the potential to become cancerous as well.
- Madelung’s disease is a condition that mostly occurs in men who have a habit of drinking excessively. It is also known as multiple symmetric lipomatosis, as multiple lipomas grow in the neck and shoulder region of the person who has this condition.
Types of Lipomas
- Spindle-cell lipomas
- Superficial subcutaneous lipomas
Causes & Symptoms of Lipomas
- Faulty gene from parents
- Medical conditions like Gardner’s Syndrome, Madelung’s disease, etc.
- Encapsulated fat tissues
- Painless lumps of skin color
- Round shaped lump with rubbery tissues
- Lump moves when you touch
- A lump smaller than 2 inches in diameter
Diagnosis and Evaluation of Lipomas
The self-diagnosis of lipoma can be done if you are aware of the symptoms it exhibits. For instance, you can start by touching the lump and seeing whether it moves or not. Lipoma can be very small and large in size. And it grows very slowly without causing any kind of pain or discomfort. Usually, that’s how a person will narrow down if the skin lump is lipoma or not.
However, this is not an appropriate way to diagnose lipomas. Though the physical symptoms will give you an idea, there is still no assurance that the lump is not some other kind of cyst or liposarcoma.
To rule out the possibility that the skin lump is not cancerous and doesn’t pose a threat to your health, it is advisable that you visit a skin specialist or a plastic surgeon who understands the condition and knows how to manage and treat it.
Diagnosis by Doctor
During the initial consultation, the doctor will first physically examine the lipoma. The doctor will identify whether the skin-colored lump exhibits the symptoms of lipoma or liposarcoma (cancerous skin lumps). From the appearance, it can be difficult to differentiate between lipoma, liposarcoma, and other forms of cysts.
Thus, the doctor will touch the lipoma to see if it moves. The doctor will also check if the lipoma is causing pain. Though lipomas are normally painless, they can sometimes form over blood vessels and compress them, which will cause pain and discomfort.
If pain is present, the doctor will order lab tests to accurately identify the condition.
- Biopsy- A tissue sample of the skin lump is collected to look for signs of cancer growth.
- X-Ray- This test will provide a clear picture of the dense structure of the lipoma.
- MRI- This test will create better images of the fatty mass and its exact location.
- CT Scan- This is performed to see the fatty mass underneath the skin to confirm that the lump is composed of fatty tissues.
When Lipomas Are Considered Serious?
As lipomas are not life-threatening, they are not considered a serious health problem. But they can become severe in the following cases:
- Size- If lipoma continues growing, it can become even bigger than 5 cm and 6 inches wide. Such lipomas negatively affect the aesthetic appearance of the individual and lead to self-consciousness.
- Pain– In normal conditions, a lipoma won’t hurt. However, if it grows large, the accumulated fat tissues may become heavy and start compressing the blood vessels underneath the skin.
- Number– Another scenario where lipomas are considered severe is when multiple lipomas grow on different parts of the body at the same time.
In all these three cases, lipomas will become problematic due to which you will have to seek expert help.
Prevention of Lipoma
Unfortunately, there are no proven methods available that will help to prevent lipomas. Moreover, lipomas commonly occur in people who inherit these genes. As the condition is passed down through DNA among families, it is not possible to prevent lipomas entirely.
However, in some cases, you can reduce your chances of developing these benign skin lumps. For instance, you can minimize your chances of developing Madelung’s disease, which causes lipomas to grow, by limiting your alcohol intake.
The best thing to do is to consult a plastic surgeon and discuss this matter with them. They will be able to better explain the conditions that cause lipomas to grow and also provide insight on how to avoid them in the future.
Myths & Facts About Lipomas
Myth 1: Lipomas are cancerous.
Fact: Lipomas are non-cancerous benign tumors that are composed of fatty tissues only.
Myth 2: Lipomas don’t grow over 1-2 cm.
Fact: Lipomas can grow around 10-20 cm and weigh around 4-5 kg. However, it happens rarely.
Myth 3: Lipomas never cause pain.
Fact: Lipomas can cause pain if they form above blood vessels and grow large in size, which can compress the blood vessels underneath.
Myth 4: You can remove lipoma at home.
Fact: Lipoma removal may be possible at home. However, it is not recommended as it is hard to maintain a safe and sterile environment at home. In addition, you may not be able to remove the fatty lump completely or end up hurting yourself.
When to Consult a Doctor for Lipoma?
If there is a lump growing under your skin in any part of the body, make sure that you see a plastic surgeon. It is important that you seek timely treatment and get evaluated properly to rule out other serious conditions, such as liposarcoma, as the symptoms can be misunderstood.
In case you already know that the lump on your skin is a lipoma, visit the doctor if you notice any changes in the shape or size of the lump, especially if it becomes painful. The healthcare professional will check the lipoma and suggest a suitable treatment plan.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- How many years of experience do you have in treating lipomas?
- What board are you certified from?
- What are the different treatment options for lipoma?
- How will the surgery be performed?
- What are the different techniques used for lipoma treatment?
- What are the risks and complications of surgical removal of a lipoma?
- Is surgery the only solution to get rid of lipomas?
- How should I prepare for the surgery?
- What is the success rate of lipoma surgery?
- How long does the surgery take?
- Do I need to stop other medications for lipoma treatment?
Lipoma Treatment Cost in India & Insurance Coverage
Lipoma surgery costs around Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 1,00,000 approx. in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, etc.
The exact cost may vary from one patient to another based on the following factors:
- The choice of hospital
- Surgeon’s fee
- Diagnostic tests
- Hospital admission/discharge cost
- The number, location, and size of the lipoma
- Post-surgery care, support, and follow-ups
Due to all these factors, the cost will vary a lot from one patient to another.
Lipoma removal is covered under insurance in specific circumstances. Many people wish to undergo lipoma surgery because of cosmetic reasons. In such scenarios, the treatment expenses are not payable through insurance.
In other cases, if the lipoma is causing pain and growing continuously, its treatment will be considered important. Due to this, the treatment may be covered under insurance. To confirm this, the patient will have to talk to the insurance providers, and they will provide clear answers about the coverage and other terms and conditions.
If the treatment can be covered under insurance, you can file a claim to pay for the treatment. Or you can use the reimbursement method to get a claim against the sum of money you paid for lipoma treatment.