A lipoma is a growth that occurs under the skin due to the excessive growth of fat cells. They are non-cancerous (benign) and typically not painful or dangerous, though they can cause complications that lead to the need for medical intervention. Lipomas feel soft to the touch, and you may be able to feel it move under your skin when you press down on it. They grow slowly – over a period of months or years – and tend to stop growing when they are two to three centimeters in diameter.
Some people experience what are known as “giant” lipomas, which can grow to as large as 10cm. Often, these cause pain and irritation to the point that they must be removed by a dermatologist or surgeon.
Doctors are not sure what causes lipomas, and they are generally diagnosed with a simple physical examination. If it is large or painful, a biopsy to determine whether or not it is cancerous will usually be performed. Ultrasounds, MRIs, and CT scans can also aid in diagnosing lipomas.
Most of the time, a lipoma is harmless enough that no treatment is required. However, if it is cancerous, growing quickly, causing pain or discomfort, or interfering with everyday life or bodily functions, your dermatologist may need to surgically remove it in an in-office procedure.