A lipoma is a type of slow-growing, benign (noncancerous) tumor that comes from fat cells. These soft-tissue tumors are the most common benign tumors oncologists diagnose in adults.

Most lipomas do not hurt, and if you have a lipoma, you’ll usually be able to feel and move the lump under your skin. Although some lipomas might feel harder or more rubbery, many times they feel soft or “doughy” when you touch your skin. It is common to have multiple lipomas and most of the time lipomas are small. If they are larger than five centimeters, they are called giant lipomas.

Although it’s rare, a lipoma can sometimes be a type of cancer called liposarcoma. If a doctor takes a biopsy, they can check to see if the tissue is liposarcoma or a benign lipoma.

There are also forms of lipoma that are noncancerous. One is called spindle cell lipoma, which appears in the upper back, back of the neck, and shoulders of men between 40 and 70. There’s also a type of lipoma called pleomorphic lipoma, which is a variation of spindle cell lipoma.

Lipomas usually do not need to be treated. However, these fatty tumors can be painful if they are pressing against a nerve. They can also grow in an inconvenient area, such as near the armpit, where the lump can get squeezed and press uncomfortably into the skin and tissues around it. If a lipoma does need treatment, a nonsurgical option is a steroid shot. A doctor might also recommend liposuction to remove the lipoma.

At University Orthopedic Surgeons, our dual-fellowship-trained oncologist, Dr. Anna Wallace, is uniquely qualified and skilled to treat lipoma as well as the many other types of bone tumors a patient may develop. When treating her patients using a surgical procedure, Dr. Wallace strives to completely remove the tumor while leaving as much of the surrounding healthy tissue as intact as possible.

Build Your Knowledge of Lipoma and Oncology

If you or someone you know has been recently diagnosed with lipoma by an oncologist, it can be helpful to build your knowledge about bone diseases and how they are treated. Here is some information that can help you:

  • Atypical lipomatous tumors: Rare tumors that develop in the soft tissues, most commonly in the thigh and arm.
  • Benign: Benign tumors are noncancerous. But even if a tumor or lesion is not cancerous, it can still cause damage, like a bone deformity. Therefore, any growth should be diagnosed and treated by doctors called oncologists who are skilled in oncology, which is the study and treatment of tumors.
  • Bone cyst: A noncancerous type of fluid-filled growth that is more common in children. 
  • Fibrous dysplasia: A condition where fibrous tissue begins to grow and replace normal bone and marrow, which weakens the bone.
  • Giant cell tumors: Giant cell tumors grow rapidly in the rounded end of the bones, usually near the knee.
  • Malignant bone tumor: A cancerous tumor that occurs in hard structures, such as bone or cartilage, versus soft tissues, such as muscle or blood vessels.
  • Orthopedic oncology: The study and the treatment of bone tumors.
  • Primary bone cancer: "Primary cancer" is a term used to describe the place where the cancer first developed. 
  • Sarcoma: An overall term for bone cancer or soft-tissue tumors that are malignant. Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery are examples of treatments that may be used to treat a sarcoma. 
  • Soft-tissue tumors: These are tumors that develop in the soft tissues of the body, such as muscle or blood vessels. Some are soft-tissue sarcomas, which means they are malignant. Others are benign.

Exceptional Care at University Orthopedic Surgeons

Our years of experience and advanced training devoted to the treatment of orthopedic issues make us who we are, but our compassionate care of our patients is what makes us dedicated to you.

Our orthopedic oncology specialist at University Orthopedic Surgeons is here to improve the health and well-being of our community, treating patients dealing with the full range of bone diseases and conditions. She is also committed to staying up to date on new treatment advances so she can offer the very best to patients.

Dr. Anna Wallace and her orthopedic oncology team are fully equipped to treat the complete range of sarcomas as well as noncancerous soft-tissue tumors, lipomas, and bone tumors, and is supported by our entire team of highly experienced nurses and other clinical staff and backed by our state-of-the-art orthopedic facility.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with our orthopedic oncology specialist, call our UT Medical Center office at (865) 546-2663 or request an appointment online.