Frequently Asked Questions About Lipomas

At Lipoma Center Los Angeles, our cosmetic lipoma surgeons specialize in thorough lipoma removal with minimal scarring. We realize you may have many questions about lipomas, and we hope this page will be a helpful resource for you.

What is a lipoma?

A lipoma is a fatty growth contained in a thin capsule that forms in the soft tissue just under the skin. Lipomas are benign, which means they are not cancerous (nor will they ever become cancerous). Lipomas grow slowly, move easily when touched, and are only rarely uncomfortable or painful.1

Are lipomas cancerous?

A lipoma is a fatty growth contained in a thin capsule that forms in the soft tissue just under the skin. Lipomas are benign, which means they are not cancerous (nor will they ever become cancerous). Lipomas grow slowly, move easily when touched, and are only rarely uncomfortable or painful.

There is a very small chance that a lipoma may be confused for a rare type of cancer called liposarcoma. Liposarcoma tumors are made of connective tissue that may resemble fat cells, and they usually occur in deeper soft tissue.

Again, liposarcomas are rare. However, if you encounter a lump under your skin, you should have it evaluated by an experienced lipoma doctor who can properly diagnose and treat it. The doctors at Lipoma Center Los Angeles can examine your growth and perform a biopsy if necessary.2

What causes lipomas?

The cause of lipomas is unknown, although there does seem to be a genetic factor in developing lipomas.

Who is at risk of developing lipomas? Are they common?

Roughly 1 in every 1,000 people will develop a lipoma. While the cause of lipomas is unknown, there are certain risk factors that make some people more likely to develop lipomas:

  • Genetics: People with a family history of lipomas are more likely to develop them.
  • Age: Lipomas usually appear in middle age, between the ages of 40 and 60.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop lipomas than men.
  • Medical Conditions: Lipomas are more likely in people with conditions such as hereditary lipomatosis, adiposis dolorosa, Cowden syndrome, Madelung disease and Gardner’s syndrome.3

What are the symptoms of a lipoma?

Symptoms of lipomas include:

Lipoma symptoms and characteristics:

  • The growth is located directly under the skin (subcutaneous)
  • Lipomas are round or oval in shape
  • Lipomas appear most frequently on the neck, shoulders, back, arms, and thighs
  • Lipomas are slow-growing
  • Lipomas feel doughy and soft
  • Lipomas move easily when touched
  • Lipomas are generally no larger than 2 inches in diameter
  • Lipomas are rarely painful unless they contain blood vessels or press against a nerve

Lipomas are easily identified by common symptoms, but it is important to have any growth examined by a professional. The only way to definitively identify a lipoma is through professional diagnosis.

Do I have a lipoma?

The only way to get an accurate lipoma diagnosis is to visit your primary care provider or a specialist at the Lipoma Center in Los Angeles who can analyze your particular situation and, if necessary, perform a biopsy.

That said, there are several indicators you can look for to help give you peace of mind when you encounter a growth under the skin. Lipomas are located beneath the skin but above other structures like muscles, joints, or nerves. They move easily when touched and feel doughy (malignant tumors are usually firm and stay in one place).

Where can lipomas develop?

Lipomas can develop anywhere on the body, but are most common on the neck, upper arms, armpits, torso, and upper thighs.

How are lipomas diagnosed?

Most lipomas can be diagnosed after a simple physical exam. If a doctor thinks further investigation is necessary to rule out other types of soft tissue tumors, a biopsy and/or imaging tests may be ordered.

If a lipoma is harmless, why should I get it removed?

Lipomas are benign tumors: they are not cancerous and will never develop into cancer. Because of this, removing lipomas is not medically necessary. Still, there are many reasons our patients choose to have lipomas removed. Most of our patients choose to remove lipomas for cosmetic reasons: they don’t like the way a lipoma affects their appearance.

Other reasons for lipoma removal include:

  • The lipoma is tender or painful to touch
  • The lipoma has become infected or inflamed
  • The lipoma is draining
  • The lipoma interferes with movement or function
  • The lipoma is increasing in size

How are lipomas treated?

Lipomas may be treated with steroids, which can reduce their size, or liposuction, which can remove fatty tissue and reduce their mass. However, these treatment options rarely remove the lipoma entirely, and as fat cells regenerate the lipoma may come back.

The most effective treatment for lipomas is surgical removal (excision), which is a simple outpatient procedure performed under local anesthetic. At Lipoma Center Los Angeles, our lipoma doctors are also cosmetic surgeons and have extensive experience in treating lipomas with minimal scarring.4

What will my scar look like after lipoma removal?

Because our lipoma doctors are both general and cosmetic surgeons, they are experts at creating precise incisions for minimal scarring. Most of our patients can barely see their scars after lipoma removal.

How long is the recovery after lipoma treatment?

Lipoma removal is a simple surgical procedure that requires no recovery period or downtime except in rare cases of very large lipomas. The majority of our patients resume their normal activities immediately after lipoma removal, and can easily manage any discomfort with over-the-counter medications.

Can lipomas come back after removal?

It is possible for lipomas to come back, even after surgical excision. While recurring lipomas are not very common, our doctors have experience treating them and can monitor patients to ensure recurrent lipomas are identified and removed at their earliest stages.

Contact Us

At Lipoma Center Los Angeles, we believe that a successful doctor-patient relationship is based on transparency and trust, so we always take the time to make sure our patients feel well informed before making any decisions regarding lipoma treatment. If you have additional questions about lipomas, please contact us for a consultation.

1 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Lipoma. Available: Accessed June 20, 2023.
2 Cleveland Clinic. Liposarcoma. Available: Accessed June 20, 2023.
3 Charifa A, Azmat CE, Badri T. Lipoma Pathology. [Updated 2022 Dec 5]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: Accessed June 20, 2023.
4 Mayo Clinic. Lipoma Diagnosis & Treatment. Available: Accessed June 20, 2023.