Medical Q&As

Lipoma - what is it?

I am aged 63 and have a lump on my back. I first noticed this lump several years ago and went to see my doctor about it. He said that it was a lipoma and that there was no need to worry about it. But I am worried because it seems to be getting bigger. What do you think I should do?

If you are worried that the lump has changed in some way then you should return to see your GP. Lipomas are very common and tend to mainly occur on the back and shoulders. A lipoma is a benign lump that consists of fat cells. They do not have any malignant potential and rarely give rise to problems. However, sometimes they can grow quite large and I distinctly recall a man attending me some years ago with a lipoma at the base of his neck that was about the size of a tennis ball. That lipoma was removed because it was impinging on the base of the collar of the manís shirt and the lump was visible under the shirt when he wasnít wearing a jacket. The point in that anecdote is that the main reasons for removing lipomas are cosmetic and also if they happen to be awkward and catch in clothing. When you see your GP I am quite confident that your doctor will confirm that it is a lipoma but it has simply got bigger. You may decide that you want it removed, which is a very straightforward procedure that can often be performed as an out-patient at your nearest hospital. Alternatively, some GPs have an interest in minor surgery and depending on the size of the lipoma it may be possible for your GP or a GP colleague of his to remove it for you.