You have noticed a lump (or even several ones) just underneath your skin – maybe of your arms, legs, back, chest or even forehead – and are not sure how long it has been there. Perhaps, it has been there for several years but you just ignored it until now. However, it seems to be far more noticeable, might have significantly increased in size or maybe it is causing you discomfort when there is overlying pressure.
On feel, it has a somewhat doughy consistency – a little firm but not hard and there may be some irregularities in contour. It is not associated with redness or drainage in the area.
Based on this description, there is a good chance that what you have is a lipoma though there are other possibilities that may need to be considered. A good way for you to find out exactly what this mass represents is to be evaluated by your primary care doctor.
You go see your doctor who proceeds to tell you that you have a lipoma – an extremely common, benign fatty growth that can increase in size but does not degenerate into a malignancy. He/she explains that there is nothing to worry about but you can have it removed if so desired.
Now what do you do?
Because a lipoma is a benign growth with essentially a zero malignant potential, there should be no worry that it will become cancerous at a later date. Therefore, its routine removal based on the potential to become malignant is not justified.
However, there are three great reasons to have them removed. These are:
- Cosmetic. You don’t like that the lipoma is causing a significant protrusion of the overlying skin which can make its presence quite apparent. This is particularly true of those involving the forehead where even a very small one can be quite prominent and noticeable.
- Enlargement. The lipoma is continuing to grow and may already be several centimeters in size. You want to have it removed before it becomes even larger, more prominent and maybe causing symptoms
- It is symptomatic. There may be discomfort and rarely pain when pressure is applied over the area. A large lipoma of the back can be uncomfortable when one is leaning back on a chair or even lying down in bed. Substantial sized ones of the neck can even limit motion.
If you have decided to have your lipoma removed or are not entirely sure what you want to do but need more answers, your best bet is to consult with a reputable board certified plastic surgeon who commonly treats lipomas. He/she should be able to provide you with all the information needed to make an informed decision – one way or another.
And if you do elect to proceed with surgery, who else could you possibly want to have remove your lipoma than an experienced board certified plastic surgeon?
Steven H. Turkeltaub, M.D. P.C.
Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona