Signs and Symptoms of Lipoma

lipoma symptoms

A lipoma is a benign (noncancerous) tumor composed of fat tissue cells. Typically found just beneath the skin, lipomas can develop anywhere in the body. These growths often feel soft and movable under the skin. Most lipomas are painless and not tender to the touch, growing slowly over time and generally not requiring treatment.

Painless Nature of Lipomas

Usually, a lipoma is painless and not tender. However, in rare cases, a lipoma can grow large enough to press on nerves or organs, causing pain. In some instances, a lipoma might press on the bowels, leading to a blockage. An exception is Dercum’s disease (adiposis dolorosa or Anders’ syndrome), where multiple painful lipomas grow around the body, particularly on the trunk or upper limbs.

Soft Texture

Lipomas are characterized by their soft, doughy texture. They can be easily moved with a finger and are usually uniformly round or oval in shape, matching the skin color. If a lump feels firm to the touch, it is advisable to consult a healthcare provider for an evaluation.

Common Locations

While lipomas can appear anywhere on the body, they most commonly form in the subcutaneous tissue, the fat layer just under the skin. They frequently develop on the trunk or upper extremities and usually appear as single growths, though multiple lipomas can occur simultaneously. Unlike cancerous lumps, which are harder to feel and typically grow deeper in the body, lipomas are easier to detect.

Slow Growth

Lipomas are benign and typically grow slowly over time, often reaching sizes between 1 and 10 centimeters in diameter. Rapidly growing or large lipomas should be evaluated by a healthcare provider to rule out serious health issues. A biopsy, which involves taking a sample of the tissue, may be recommended to determine the tumor’s nature.

Serious Considerations

Although lipomas are generally noncancerous and do not require treatment, certain conditions can make them serious. Liposarcoma, a rare cancerous tumor, can resemble a benign lipoma and grows quickly. Additionally, familial multiple lipomatosis, a rare genetic condition, causes multiple lipomas to develop throughout the body, often affecting several family members.


Lipomas are typically circular or oval and usually less than 4 inches (10 centimeters) in diameter, though they can grow larger. In contrast, cancerous lumps are often irregularly shaped, angular, bumpy, or asymmetrical.

Symptoms in Children

Lipomas are uncommon in children. However, a condition called angiolipoma, affecting adolescents and young adults, leads to multiple benign lesions in the fat tissue. These nodules, usually 0.5 to 2 centimeters in size, are often painful and tender and commonly found on the forearms or chest wall.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Most lipomas are small, painless, and benign, posing no health problems and not requiring treatment. However, you should contact your healthcare provider if you have a lump that is:

  • Painful
  • Tender to the touch
  • Growing quickly
  • Restricting movement
  • Firm or hard
  • Deep in the muscle tissue

Treatment typically involves surgical removal, and most lipomas do not recur once removed

A Quick Review

A lipoma is a benign tumor made of fat tissue cells that is typically painless, soft, and slow-growing. They are commonly found just under the skin on the trunk or upper extremities. While usually harmless, lipomas should be evaluated if they grow rapidly, become painful, or restrict movement


What is a lipoma?

lipoma is a benign (noncancerous) tumor made up of fat tissue cells. It usually forms just under the skin and feels soft and movable.

Where do lipomas commonly appear?

Lipomas most commonly appear on the trunk, upper extremities, and other areas with subcutaneous fat tissue. However, they can develop anywhere in the body.

Are lipomas painful?

Most lipomas are painless and not tender to the touch. In rare cases, they can cause pain if they grow large enough to press on nerves, organs, or other structures.

Can lipomas become cancerous?

Lipomas are benign and do not become cancerous. However, a rare cancerous tumor called liposarcoma can resemble a lipoma, so it’s important to have any unusual or rapidly growing lumps evaluated by a healthcare provider.

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