Lipoma or Cyst?

I have a growth now for over 10 years. When I went to the doctor he told me it was a cyst and that I should not worry about it unless it hurts. . I have 2 from trauma to my ribs from my brother jabbing/prodding me unexpectedly; repeatedly when I was 15. Each started where the lowest rib begin and has spread laterally but adjacent to the lowest ribs on each side so they are large and cause discomfort. I'm concerned with bleeding as I do not accept blood should I be worried about death?

Doctor Answers 7

Lipoma or cyst

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Lipomas can be differentiated from cysts. Cysts typically have a punctum, like the opening at the top of a zit. Lipomas do not.  Neither should have been caused by the trauma noted. If they are large and uncomfortable, then you should seek surgical removal by a board certified plastic surgeon.  With proper technique, bleeding can be controlled and the blood loss is quite low.

Removal of Cysts and Lipomas

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Whether a lipoma or a cyst, either can usually be removed easily with minimal blood loss in most patients. I would recommend you see a board certified plastic or general surgeon for consultation. At that time they will go over potential problems and their incidence. Depending on the size it can be done in the office under local anesthesia or with IV sedation or general anesthetic if done in a certified surgery center or hospital.

Lipoma or Cyst removal do not require blood

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A lipoma consists of benign fatty tissue and is different then a cyst. The difference between a cyst and a lipoma  may be diagnosed typically upon a direct examination. Lipomas can be easily removed with local anesthesia and typically heal very well with minimal discomfort and downtime. Since I have my own operating facility these are typically removed in the facility either with local anesthesia or if larger and may be uncomfortable then with local anesthesia and light sedation by the anesthesiologist. These are typically covered by most insurance policies and may be preauthorized prior to the procedure. The same goes for most cysts. Neither of these procedures either cyst or lipoma removal require any blood and are done in an outpatient setting returning home a few hours after the procedure. Best regards, Michael V. Elam, M.D.

Michael Elam, MD
Orange County Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 218 reviews

Lipoma or Cyst

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These are two entirely different entities. An epidermal inclusion cyst ( sometimes referred to as a follicular cyst) is caused when there is irritation to the follicle opening. This causes cells to proliferate and the opening becomes clogged. The keratin which normally fills the follicle and is emitted to smooth the skin, cannot escape and begins to pile up, ballooning out the follicle wall. Sometimes, these are referred to as a "sebaceous cyst". This is a misnomer for a number of reasons: 1) the contents are keratin and not sebum 2) the cyst cavity is lined by squamous epithelium and not sebaceous glands 3) sebaceous glands are usually squeezed so much by the cyst that they cannot even be found and 4) there is a growth called a steatocystoma multiplex which IS a sebaceous cyst. 

Anyway, most physicians can tell the difference between the two. By palpation ( feeling) the sebaceous cyst will feel a bit firmer than the lipoma, it is also usually more round. Upon observation, one can see a small hole ( punctum). These is the center of the cyst where the pore was originally clogged.

A lipoma consists of benign fatty tissue. Small lipomas can be easily removed in physician's office as they usually pop out. If the lipoma is tender, this is usually an angiolipoma. A fatty tumor with increased blood vessels running through them.

Neither of these are dangerous or can cause death. Though an epidermal inclusion cyst may have cancer in it on very rare occasions ( have seen this twice in 32 years), the type is often quite non-aggressive. 

Both lipomas and epidermal inclusion cysts can be removed with minimal blood loss.

Arnold R. Oppenheim, MD
Virginia Beach Dermatologist

Lipoma? Cyst?

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A lipoma is a fatty cyst. When you see it, it sort of resembles a brain, as it's a pocket of fatty tissue. A cyst, in the traditional sense, is more liquid inside a sac. You shouldn't be worried about death in either case and either one can be removed by a dermatologic surgeon. If they are causing you discomfort you should definitely get them removed, especially if they are getting bigger or growing.

Lipoma or cyst

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The only way to truly know what the lesion is is to have it removed and tested, which is typically done by dermatologists and plastic surgeons.

Anatoli Freiman, MD
Toronto Dermatologist


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The only way that any one will know if this is a lipoma or a cyst is when it is excised and sent for pathology 

Norman Bakshandeh, MD, FACS
New York Plastic Surgeon

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.