A lipoma is a noncancerous (benign) tumor composed of fat cells. They are usually found under the skin (subcutaneous). A lipoma may occur in any tissue of the body that contains fat. Common areas for lipomas to appear include the back, shoulders, buttocks, and thighs. Lipomas are a very common soft tissue growth. They are soft and grow slowly. Most problems caused by a lipoma depend on where it is growing.


A lipoma can be diagnosed with a physical exam. These tumors rarely become cancerous, but radiographic studies can help determine this for certain. Studies used may include:

  • Computerized X-ray scans (CT or CAT scan).

  • Computerized magnetic scans (MRI).


Small lipomas that are not causing problems may be watched. If a lipoma continues to enlarge or causes problems, removal is often the best treatment. Lipomas can also be removed to improve appearance. Surgery is done to remove the fatty cells and the surrounding capsule. Most often, this is done with medicine that numbs the area (local anesthetic). The removed tissue is examined under a microscope to make sure it is not cancerous. Keep all follow-up appointments with your caregiver.


  • The lipoma becomes larger or hard.

  • The lipoma becomes painful, red, or increasingly swollen. These could be signs of infection or a more serious condition.