What is a Lipoma?

What exactly is lipoma?  Should I be worried if I have one?

Doctor Answers 22

What is a Lipoma?

Lipomas are subcutaneous fatty growths that are benign.  Patients typically want them removed because they are unsightly or by pressing on nerves are uncomfortable.  They typically start small and gradually enlarge to as much as 5-10 cm in diameter over a period of years.

There are genetic and familial aspects to lipomas. The large, rubbery lipomas are usually solitary. 60% are associated with an identifiable chromosomal abnormality, while patients with multiple, small lipomas on their chest, arms and legs often have a family history and there are no chromosomal changes.

Under the microscope the lipoma cells look just like ordinary fat cells. They can have a thin capsule around them, which the surgeon will try to dissect free of surrounding skin and tissue to try to get all the lipoma cells out. This is not always possible, so even if lipomas are surgically removed, they can recur.

Removal is done by some variant of a surgical technique:  direct excision, liposuction, and my preferred method, laser dissolution followed by aspiration through a minimal, hidden incision.

Mountain View Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 50 reviews


Lipomas are the most common benign tumor;  they are composed of adipose tissue. Sometimes these soft,  usually mobile  masses can grow in size and become an aesthetic or functional concern.

Malignant transformation of lipomas into liposarcomas  it's extremely rare ( and controversial).

Generally, I  recommend excision to allow for pathologic evaluation (which is the only  way to make a definitive diagnosis).

Best wishes.

Tom J. Pousti, MD, FACS
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 1,502 reviews

Lipomas: benign fatty tumors

Lipomas are benign fatty tumors that are exceedingly common.  We are insulated with fat beneath our skin over the entire surface of our bodies.  Therefore, it's not surprising that a maverick fat cell will start growing unchecked.  Fortunately, lipoma removal is usually straightforward and can be performed under local anesthesia.  We also have laughing gas available.

Ronald Friedman, MD
Plano Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 49 reviews

What is a lipoma

Lipomas are benign , ie. not cancerous, growths of fat that are encapsulated. They are painless and slow growing. Very rarely or uncommonly could it be a liposarcoma which is the malignant/ cancerous counterpoint. This cannot be diagnosed based on imaging or physical exam, and would require tissue diagnosis. However, it is a fairly rare entity so as long as it is slow growing and not painful- there is a low suspicion.

Sapna A. Patel, MD
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 4 reviews


Lipomas are, in plain English, tumors consisting of adipose, or fatty, tissue. They can be familial and some people have lipomatosis, a condition in which they form multiple such masses on an ongoing basis. The treatment is excision. I recommend this because they will grow and become more difficult to manage, with longer scarring, and there is a risk of malignant degeneration in larger tumors.

Robert L. Kraft, MD, FACS
New York Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 42 reviews

Lipoma Definition

Lipomas are benign fatty tumors composed of a collection of fat cells that only know how to grow, generally very slowly, independent of your weight. Multiple lipomas can be familial. Rarely, a malignant tumor, called a liposarcoma, may mimic one of these- but tend to grow fast and relatively large. If concerned see your physician or surgeon

Larry S. Nichter, MD, MS, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 159 reviews

What is a Lipoma

Limomas are benign fatty growths beneath the skin surface. Over time they tend to enlarge slightly but do not destroy the normal tissue nearby and do not metastasize or spread to other sites. As such, they do not need to be treated unless they are becoming symptomatic or problematic based on their size or where they are located. It's best to see a dermatologist to evaluate the lesion to assure it is a benign lipoma and whether it should be treated.

Andrew Kaufman, MD
Los Angeles Dermatologic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 16 reviews


lipomas are benign fatty tumors. they come in varying size and can sometimes cause dramatic symptoms. i have removed them from the size of a football on down to the size of a pea. some can be symptomatic and can grow in size.  i once had one cause impengement on the radial nerve in the wrist and caused posterior interosseus syndrome.

Timothy Mountcastle, MD
Ashburn Plastic Surgeon
4.3 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Lipoma is a benign growth of fatty tissue.

A lipoma is a benign, harmless growth of extra fatty tissue. It may have some blood vessels mixed in and be referred to as an angiolipoma. These can sometimes be sore or tender, but are still harmless. There are very rare cases of malignant tumors of fatty tissue called liposarcomas, but this is the rare exception.

Jessica J. Krant, MD, MPH
New York Dermatologic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 41 reviews

Lipoma evaluation and treatment

Not all subcutaneous nodule is a lipoma. Lipoma is a benign proliferation of fatty tissues due to a combination of genetic tendencies and/or trauma. Besides lipoma, the other likely possibility is an epidermal inclusion cyst. Very rarely, one may encounter a malignant cousin of lipoma known as liposarcoma. One should get evaluation by a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon for diagnosis and treatment.

William Ting, MD
Bay Area Dermatologic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.