Tuesday, 20 Feb 2024

Can a lipoma turn into cancer?

Can a lipoma turn into cancer?

Having great healthy skin can mean a lot to a person. It can make a person be confident of themselves and may also make them attractive. A healthy skin can also make a person look younger than their real age. The journey of having a healthy skin can seem different to one person and another. Some may have this even without the need to get treatment but reality speaking, to have a healthy skin often need treatment or extra care. There are many skin disorders that can deteriorate skin health. In this DoctorOnCalls article, we will be learning about one of the many skin disorders known as lipoma.

Lipoma are soft and fatty lumps that grow under the skin. It is a benign lump and not cancerous. It is formed due to an overgrowth of fat cells. Lipoma is not the same as liposarcomas. Liposarcomas are cancerous tumours for the fat cells and a type of soft tissue sarcoma. One may wonder if lipoma, the benign lump, can turn into a dangerous cancer. It is very rare for lipomas to turn into cancer. However, it is still important for patients with lipomas to talk with their doctor if there are changes to the lipoma or the lipoma bothers the patient.

It is estimated that about 1 in every thousand people will have lipomas at some point in their lifetime. Lipoma commonly appears in those aged 40 to 60 years old, even though it can occur to anyone of any age. The number of male with lipomas are slightly higher than in females. It is not known the exact causes of lipoma but there is theory to explain the development of lipoma. Lipoma can be caused due to genetic defects that run in the family. There is also a link between trauma and lipoma formation which means trauma to the skin may actually induce lipomas. Lipomas often occur in inactive people, obesity, hyperlipidaemia (elevated blood lipid) and diabetes mellitus.

Lipomas can occur anywhere on the body where fat cells are present but it is commonly to appear on the trunk. Other common areas for lipomas to be found are the shoulder, upper back, arms, buttocks and upper thighs. It is less common for lipomas to be found in deeper tissue of the thigh, shoulder or calf. Lipomas are presented as soft, painless masses ranging from 1 to 10 cm in size. Lipomas can feel squishy or doughy. Typically, it does not cause pain. However, some lipomas such as in angiolipoma may be painful. Lipomas may be painful when it presses on other organs or nerves such as lipomas affecting the bowel and cause blockage. In case of lipoma near the bowel, patients might experience nausea, vomiting and constipation. Lipomas are able to be slightly moved when it is pressed with finger pressure. A person can have more than one lipoma.

Lipomas in general are harmless. However, it is best for patients to get checked by a doctor. Changes to lipomas such as increasing in size, sudden rapid growth of lipomas, very painful lipoma, lipoma that turns red or feels warm, lipomas become hard or immovable and visible changes to the skin nearby, should be taken as a sign to get medical advice.

Doctors can usually diagnose lipomas based on history and physical examination. This means a doctor can diagnose a person with lipomas merely by asking a series of questions and checking the lipomas. In some cases, ultrasound scans may be needed to confirm the lipomas. MRI scans provide the best information for diagnosing lipomas without the need for biopsy. Biopsy procedure is done by taking samples of the lipomas to be examined under microscope. In most lipoma cases, biopsy is not necessary to confirm diagnosis. However, biopsy may be needed if lipomas are suspected for cancer or other conditions that may pose harm to patients.

Treatment of lipomas are removal of the lipomas. Since most lipomas are harmless, some patients may or may not want the lipomas to be removed. If it is removed, it is usually because of cosmetic reasons. However, the decision to remove the lipomas will be dependent on the lipomas itself and if there are other symptoms caused by the lipomas. This is best known through evaluation by doctors. Lipomas are almost always cured with removal. It is unusual for lipoma to grow back but if it does, another removal procedure is still the best treatment option. Growing back of the lipomas could be from the incomplete removal from the previous removal procedure.

In essence, lipomas in most cases are harmless and are characterised by soft fatty lumps. It rarely causes symptoms unless it affects other nearby structures such as nerves. It is very rare for lipomas to turn into cancer. It is best for patients with lipomas to get checked by a doctor  to ensure it is indeed lipomas and not something sinister. The best treatment for lipomas are removal through surgery.

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