A lipoma is a benign (non-cancerous) fatty tumor that can occur anywhere on the body. It looks and feels like a soft lump. These tumors lie within the fatty layer of the skin or just beneath the muscle. These can be hereditary or can occur secondary to trauma. Although harmless, there are some variants of these tumors that can be tender–i.e. angiolipomas. Unfortunately, these tumors often enlarge with time and are cosmetically bothersome to many people.

Over the years surgical removal has been the most widely used and most successful treatment for these tumors. Some surgeons utilize long scars, while others remove the tumor through smaller scars. If all of the tumor is removed, recurrence is not common. With longer incisions it is easier to remove the tumor, it is more likely that the tumor will not come back, but one is left with a longer scar. With shorter or smaller incisions, it is more difficult to remove these tumors and it is more likely to leave a part of the tumor behind, thus resulting in a higher risk of recurrence. In all cases, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the fatty tumor and surrounding normal fat. Therefore, results from surgeon to surgeon vary with each having different length scars and different recurrence rates.

Other treatments have been tried, such as mesotherapy, liposuction and laser treatments, but the recurrence rates are often 30% or higher and these treatments are often not covered by insurance.

Robert S. Bader, M.D., Dermatologist