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Common Causes of Fatty Tumors

written by: Cherrineb • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 4/9/2010

The causes of lipomas, also called benign fatty tumors, vary based on the age and health condition of each patient. They are not cancerous, but they can cause discomfort and other symptoms if they grow large enough to compress nerves or interrupt other body functions. Learn about the most common causes of these tumors.

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    Definition and Diagnosis

    Lipomas are comprised of fatty tissue and tend to be round, soft, and freely moveable when pressed by a physician or a patient. They are typically found on the arms, neck, and thighs. While most lipomas are found under the skin, they may be found in muscles and near organs inside the body such as the brain, the heart, or the spine.

    Lipomas can be diagnosed by your doctor feeling the fatty tumor. However, x-rays, CT scans (Cat or Computerized Tomography), and MRI scans (Magnetic Resonace Imaging) provide a clearer diagnosis.

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    Causes of Lipomas

    One common cause of lipomas is genetic. A patient may have several close relatives with histories of fatty tumors. Also, minor injuries may cause lipomas to develop, so it is important to monitor your body when you experience an injury. Some studies have attempted to determine whether excess weight is a cause of lipomas. However, these studies have not produced conclusive results, and more research is needed to determine if extreme weight plays a significant part in what causes a lipoma to occur.

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    Lipoma Treatments

    Lipoma treatments are rare because these tumors are non cancerous and rarely grow in size. Your doctor may decide to perform lipoma treatments such as surgery if symptoms develop such as an infection with pain, tenderness, and redness. Some other common reasons for surgery are increased size, unattractive lumps, or the fatty tumors become painful near a nerve.

    Your doctor can remove most lipomas in his/her office or an outpatient surgical center. Basically, your doctor will inject a local anesthetic around the lipoma, makes a small skin incision, removes the noncancerous growth, and closes the incision after checking for bleeding and infection. Occasionally, hospitalization is needed for complications such as a large tumor located near an internal organ.

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    Prognosis of Lipomas

    The prognosis of lipomas is good. They are rarely life-threatening unless a significant growth happens near an internal organ such as the brain. Your doctor may monitor internal lipomas regularly and determine the best course of lipoma treatment.

    Deep lipomas have a tendency to recur compared to small, superficial lipomas because the complete surgical removal of deep fatty tumors may be more difficult.

    http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec18/ch215/ch215d.html

    http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/tc/lipoma-topic-overview