How to Tell the Difference Between a Lymph Node or Lipoma?

I had a lump on the lower left side of my scalp. i went to my physician, he reffered me to a plastic surgeon. I met with the surgeon and he looked at the lump and said it was a lipoma and i should have it removed. i am just concern that how can he be so sure by just looking and feeling the lump that its definitely a lipoma. well is there any test that could clarify what the lump possibly is without surgery, i let the surgeon remove the lump but i found out it was lymph node he removed. what can i do?

Doctor Answers 1


it is extremely rare to find a lymph node in the scalp.  they are  mostly located in the neck, axilla, groin and near joints (elbows and behind knees) and along major blood vessels. lumps in general can be hard to tell exactly what type they are just by look and feel even though 90% of the time i can tell by looking and feeling there are always surprises. in general a lipoma is a soft malleable lump that moves when pressing on it.  a lymph node may have a bit more of a rubbery feel and more well defined shell to it but sometimes the two can be hard to tell the difference just by feel.  sebeceous cysts also can feel like lymph nodes but are typically closer to the skin and sometimes even involving the skin and can cause sinus tracts and thinning of the skin.


some tests which are most useful in the workup of lumps, bumps and masses are ultrasounds, cat scans, and mris.


ultrasounds are the least complex and dont involve radiation. it is simple sound  waves and best define lumps in the fact in whether they are cystic or solid or contain blood flow within them.


ct scans offer more definition and will be able to differentiate to a higher degree of certainty the liklihood of whether something is cancer, a lymph node, or a lipoma but still not 100%


an mri gives the best definition but even this doesnt give 100% accuracy.

the only true way to tell is to take a biopsy. either by complete removal or partial or total biopsy of the mass.

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