A lipoma is a slow growing fatty lump or tumor (usually benign) that is generally located between skin and underlying muscle layer.
Diagnosis of lipoma:
Diagnosis of lipoma is not very difficult. For diagnosis of lipoma, generally physical examination and history of the growth is sufficient in most cases. However, to rule out cancer or if it is situated in awkward site or if it appears to have gone deeper, your doctor may recommend various other tests, such as
- Biopsy: your doctor may recommend biopsy, if there is suspicion about cancerous nature of lipoma. Your doctor will take sample of lipoma under local anesthesia and sent it to lab for direct examination under microscope.
- Your doctor may also recommend imaging tests such as, ultrasound, CT scan or MRI scan of the growth, if the lipoma is big size, have unusual features of if it appears to have deeper penetration.
- What you suspect to be a simple lipoma, rarely it may be a liposarcoma, which is a cancerous tumor of fatty tissue and in such a case biopsy, CT scan, MRI can help in diagnosis of liposarcoma. Liposarcomas are also painful in nature (whereas lipomas are painless, unless it is pressing on some structure of nerve) and the tumor usually do not move under your skin.
Treatment of lipoma:
For most of the cases of lipoma, no treatment is usually required. Because they are benign and usually do not cause any problem, other than cosmetic problem, if it is located in an exposed part of skin. However, if lipoma is large and causing some symptoms, it can be treated. The treatment modalities available for lipoma are,
- Surgical removal: this is the most commonly used treatment for lipoma, that have cosmetic problem or if it is causing some symptoms. Recurrence after surgical removal is rare for lipoma. Side effects include, scar formation and bruising. Surgical removal is done under local anesthesia and as outpatient procedure. Minimal excision-extraction technique may reduce less scar formation and is preferred.
- Liposuction: in this procedure, fatty tissue inside the lipoma is removed using a large needle and syringe.
- Steroid injection: in this procedure, steroid is injected directly to the lipoma/tumor to shrink the tumor/growth. It cannot eliminate the lipoma. Steroid injection before using surgical removal is under evaluation. However, the side effects of steroid injection also need careful consideration.
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