Is a Lipoma a Tumor?

Is a lipoma a tumor?  I just found out I might have a couple lipomas and I don't know if should be worried by this... can cancer cause lipomas?

Doctor Answers 11

Lipomas are benign tumors

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Lipoma are good natured tumors although the may grow and press on nerves. If lipomas bother you, they can be removed. Lipomas on the trunk can invade the muscle.

Mainz Dermatologic Surgeon

Quick Tips on Lipomas: What you need to know

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Lipomas, by definition, are benign masses that are composed of fat cells. They are characterized as tumors because they are composed of proliferative fat cells that are of the same genetic composition. There are other types of fatty tumors that are cancerous but they differ significantly from lipomas in terms of growth pattern, invasion into adjacent structures, and time line of growth.
Lipomas are diagnosed on examination and by history. The true diagnosis is only made after examination by a pathologist.
The good news about lipomas is that they are generally easily removed as they do not invade other structures. They are generally shelled out with the capsule intact.
Consult with a plastic surgeon who can minimize the size and extent of the incision.

Raffy Karamanoukian, MD, FACS
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 95 reviews

"Good Natured Tumor"

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I like Dr. Kasten's answer here a lot  He called them a "Good Natured Tumor". 

The word "tumor" freaks people out because of course they think right away of cancer.  But, tumor really just means growth, so any kind of growth is a tumor.  The thing we then care about next is whether that tumor or growth is benign (non cancer) or malignant (cancer).

Arlo J. Miller, MD, PhD
Issaquah Dermatologic Surgeon

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Is a lipoma a tumor?

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A lipoma could be considered a tumor, as it is a collection of fat (adipose) cells that form a mass. However, this does not mean that it is a malignant (cancerous) tumor or mass. Lipomas are almost always benign growths. Cancer can cause masses or enlarged lymph nodes, but does not cause benign lipomas. Having a lipoma is also not a sign that a patient has cancer. Lipomas are very common.

All the best,

Matthew Richardson, MD
Frisco Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Lipoma is a tumor

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A lipoma is  a tumor since a tumor just refers to a mass. A lipoma is a soft tissue mass which is not malignant - (cancer) but it should be removed if it grows or becomes symptomatic. Although lipomas can generally  be diagnosed by physical exam based upon how they feel, biopsy is the only definitive way to know exactly that the tumor is indeed a lipoma. Large, hard, painful soft tissue masses (tumors) especially near joints may be confused with a type of soft tissue cancer called sarcoma.

Lipomas are tumors and should be removed

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Lipomas are indeed a tumor.  However they are typically benign.  Having said that, how do you know that what you are feeling, or seeing is a lipoma ?  You should be evaluated, and in most cases I would recommend removal of the growth to ensure that it is indeed a benign lipoma and not something more ominous.

Removal in my hands, is typically performed under local anesthesia, often on the same day the patient is seen.


Darrick E. Antell, MD
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 37 reviews

A tumor is simply a growth of cells

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There are two general types of tumors: benign and malignant. Benign tumors are non-cancerous. Malignant tumors are cancerous. All malignant tumors need to be evaluated and treated, in some fashion. Most benign tumors are usually removed simply because of the concern that they may be or become malignant.

Kevin Brenner, MD, FACS
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 23 reviews

Lipomas are Tumors

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Tumors are any growth. They can be benign or malignant. By definition a lipoma ia a benign tumor of fat cells. The malignant counterpart of a lipoma is the liposarcoma.

I am not sure what you mean by " can a cancer cause lipomas". There is some question among pathologist who specialize in soft tissue sarcomas whether a lipoma can degenerate into a liposarcoma. Most authorities say no. They feel that a well differentiated liposarcoma (the type of liposarcoma which is least aggressive and looks most like a lipoma) was malignant from the get go. Perhaps, the sample was taken from a less atypical part of the tumor.

Physicians can usually palpate a lipoma and determine whether it is benign.

As my colleagues have stated: the vast majority of lipomas are benign. Another reassuring thought is that the liposarcomas which occur from subcutaneous fat are usually the least aggressive of the four types of liposarcomas.

One piece of advise, many patients are reassured that their lipoma is benign. That is well and good. However, if there is growth,they should be at least biopsied. Also, if they enlarge they may encroach on nerves and muscles, causing pain and disability.

Arnold R. Oppenheim, MD
Virginia Beach Dermatologist

Are you sure it is a lipoma?

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If you are right and the masses you have are lipomas, then they are benign and if left alone should grow slowly over time. The possibility exists that they are not lipomas. Some people have masses like this removed just to stop any damage they might cause as they grow and the prove they are only lipomas.

It is a personal choice.

John P. Di Saia, MD
Orange Plastic Surgeon

Technically a lipoma is a tumor - but not all tumors are...

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Technically a lipoma is a tumor - but not all tumors are cancer. There are certain types of cancerous tumors that appear to be lipomas but these are very rare.

I know of no instances where cancer has caused lipomas. If lipomas are growing or changing, it is probably a good idea to at least have them biopsied, if not removed. For the most part, lipomas are not a problem and nothing needs to be done.

D.J. Verret, MD
Dallas Facial 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.