A lipoma is a soft tissue mass that can occur anywhere on the body. It grows in the fatty tissue underneath the skin. This fatty tumor can get very large but it is not a cancer. It grows only in that one location, under the skin, but can become uncomfortable because it pushes on the muscle or surrounding tissues. People can also have several lipomas on different parts of their body, too.
Lipomas typically cause pain when they press on nearby small nerves on muscle or skin. People describe pain immediately over the mass when it is pressed on or bumped. Masses on the shoulder or back can cause aches in those areas that do not get better with ice or rest.
Surgery is recommended when the lipoma changes quickly in size, is painful, or is cosmetically displeasing. If the mass is close enough to the skin or not too large it can be taken out under local anesthesia. That means the surgeon can inject the area with numbing medicine in the office and cut it out. If the mass is too large or deep more anesthesia might be necessary. Then the operation would be carried out in the operating room.
The risks of surgery include blood loss, infection, and wound complications. While lipomas feel like masses with regular edges sometimes not all the fat is removed. They can grow back, sometimes within a few months to a few years.