Following are the common questions about Lipoma:
- What is lipoma?
- What causes a lipoma?
- What are the symptoms of lipoma?
- Are there different types of a lipoma?
- What is multiple lipoma syndrome?
- Is lipoma dangerous?
- What can happen if the lipoma is left untreated?
- How is lipoma diagnosed?
- What are the treatment options for lipoma?
- How lipoma is treated surgically?
- What complications does lipoma removal surgery have?
- How much does lipoma treatment cost?
- Is lipoma surgery covered under insurance?
- How long does it take to recover after lipoma surgery?
- Is it possible to prevent lipomas?
Q. What is lipoma?
A. A lipoma is a benign tumor composed of fatty tissues. It can grow on any body part right under the skin. The tissues are soft and rubbery to touch and easily move with the touch of a finger. Around 1 out of 1000 people get a lipoma and this condition can arise in both males and females irrespective of their age.
Q. What causes a lipoma?
A. The primary cause of lipoma is not identified. However, it usually occurs due to the following-
- Faulty genes from one or both parents
- Medical conditions such as Madelung's disease, Gardner's Syndrome, etc.
- Hereditary conditions like multiple lipomatosis
Q. What are the symptoms of lipoma?
A. Lipoma exhibit the following symptoms-
- Encapsulated fatty tissues in any part of the body
- Skin-colored painless lumps
- Round shaped lump with rubbery and soft tissues
- A lump that moves easily with a finger's touch
- A lump that starts small and continues growing over the years
Q. Are there different types of a lipoma?
A. There are various types of lipomas and all of them are composed of fat tissues. However, each type has some different characteristics that differentiate it from others. The types are given below-
- Angiolipoma- Contains fat and blood vessels
- Conventional Lipoma- Consists of white fat cells that store energy
- Fibrolipoma- Contains fat and fibrous tissues
- Hibernoma- Consists of brown fat
- Myelolipoma- Consist of fat and tissues that contain blood cells
- Spindle Cell Lipoma- This type of lipoma has fat cells in the shape of a spindle
- Pleomorphic Lipoma- Has fat cells of different shapes and sizes
- Adenolipoma- Consist of eccrine sweat glands and fatty tumors
Although all the above-mentioned types of lipomas are non-cancerous, some of these can cause pain and discomfort.
Q. What is multiple lipoma syndrome?
A. Multiple lipoma syndrome, also known as familial multiple lipomatosis is a rare genetic disorder that is characterized by the formation of multiple fatty lumps on the trunk, arms, or upper leg region. The size and number of lipomas are not fixed. For instance, in some people, hundreds of lumps may be present without any symptoms in a similar location without pain or any other symptom. These lipomas have symmetric growth and if any person in the family has or had lipomas between the age of 30 to 70, the next generation is most likely to develop lipomas as well.
Q. Is lipoma dangerous?
A. Generally, a lipoma is not dangerous. It is a benign growth, i.e., non-cancerous. Therefore, the tissues won’t grow abnormally and pose a threat to your life. In many cases, lipomas even go away on their own without treatment. It is usually not problematic but if you have pain in the lumps and feel discomfort, you should seek help from an expert and get proper treatment.
Q. What can happen if the lipoma is left untreated?
A. If a lipoma is left untreated for a long time, it will continue growing. The growth happens gradually and there is a possibility that the lump will grow around nerves and blood vessels. For a long time, lipomas won't cause pain but as the lump grows, the fat tissues may start compressing the blood vessels. This can cause pain and discomfort which may be difficult to bear sometimes. This is the usual stage where a person having lipoma decide to visit a doctor.
Besides the pain, leaving lipomas untreated is also not recommended as the treatment of a large-sized lipoma is quite difficult. At this stage, removing a lipoma without damaging the surrounding muscles and tissues is complex. Furthermore, by ignoring a lipoma, you may end up putting your life at risk as a cancerous lump, called liposarcoma, also has similar symptoms. So, even if you don't need to undergo lipoma surgery, it is still important to get diagnosed and identify whether the fatty lump is cancerous or not.
Q. How is lipoma diagnosed?
A. Lipoma can be diagnosed by a skin specialist or a plastic surgeon simply with a touch. However, some tests are required to ensure that the lump is not cancerous and to narrow down the treatment option.
- X-ray to get a clear picture of the dense structure of the lump.
- MRI scan to create images of the fatty mass and its exact location.
- CT scan is also performed to see the fatty mass underneath the skin.
- A biopsy is also recommended to collect the tissue sample and look for signs of cancer growth.
All these tests are necessary to check the severity of the condition and to identify the best possible treatment method for lipoma.
Q. What are the treatment options for lipoma?
A. Lipomas can be treated in the following ways-
- Steroid Injections- A steroid injection is used to shrink the lipoma. It requires multiple session to successfully reduce the size of the lipoma.
- Liposuction- This technique is used to remove lipomas that are around 2cm. For this, the latest liposuction techniques, i.e., laser and VASER liposuction can also be used emulsify/melt the fat deposits.
- Lipoma Excision Surgery- It is the conventional lipoma removal process which is generally used to remove lipomas that are larger than 2 cm.
While steroid injections require multiple sessions to effectively make the lipoma disappear, other methods remove the lump at once.
Q. How lipoma is treated surgically?
A. During lipoma surgery, the patient is taken to the Operation Theater (OT) and the surgery is performed in the following steps-
- Local or general anesthesia is given to the patient to numb the body and to ensure that he/she doesn't feel any pain or discomfort during the procedure.
- An incision is made around the lump to insert the liposuction cannula. The cannula is activated and fat deposits are broken down and extracted through vacuum.
- If excision technique is being used, then incision is made on the side of the lump to take the entire lump out carefully with the help of a scalpel.
- If needed, the incision is closed with the help of stitches. If not, then the incision is left to heal on its own.
- The wound is covered with a bandage and a fluid drainage device will also be used to ensure that excess fluid drains out from the body.
Q. What complications does lipoma removal surgery have?
A. Even though lipoma excision is not a major surgery, it have several risks and complications associated with the procedure. The potential risks are-
- Excessive bleeding
- Injury to the surrounding vessels
- Excessive scarring
- Fat embolus
Most of these complications arise during the surgery. And if minimally invasive technique is used for the procedure, the risks are further reduced.
Q. How much does lipoma treatment cost?
A. Lipoma removal surgery cost ranges from Rs. 3500 to Rs. 30,000 approximately. This is an estimated cost and the exact price will vary based on factors like-
- Number of lipomas
- Size and location of lipoma
- Method of treatment (steroid injection/liposuction/excision)
- Choice of the hospital
- Surgeon's consultation and operating fee
- Hospital admission and discharge cost
- Diagnostic tests
- Post-surgery care and support
- Follow-up consultation
When you consult a doctor for lipoma treatment, he/she will breakdown these expenses so that you will have an idea of how much the treatment will cost in your case specifically.
Q. Is lipoma surgery covered under insurance?
A. If lipoma surgery is being performed for cosmetic reasons, the surgery won’t be covered by insurance. However, if lipoma is symptomatic, i.e., causing pain and other symptoms, the insurance providers may provide claim amount to cover the entire expense of the treatment. You can talk to the insurance provider about the terms and conditions and discuss how much claim can you get for a specific treatment.
Q. How long does it take to recover after lipoma surgery?
A. The recovery period after lipoma surgery vary for each person and depends on the severity of the condition. If there was only one lipoma of normal size and it was removed through excision, the recovery will take around 1 week or so.
At the same time, if there were multiple lipomas with different sizes, and excision technique was used for removal, the recovery period will be around 2-3 weeks. The more serious lipoma surgery is, the longer you will need to recover. Furthermore, your body’s healing abilities will also determine how long will it take for you to get back to your normal routine.
Q. Is it possible to prevent lipomas?
A. There is no prevention method for lipomas as the cause is also not clearly identified. Most of the people who get these fatty lumps have a hereditary condition. As a result, the genes of fatty lumps are passed down to the next generation.
However, in some cases where lipoma develop due to medical conditions like Madelung's disease, the best prevention method is limiting the alcohol intake. It may possibly reduce the chances of getting these benign lumps.