Also known as a lipoma, it is a lump under the skin that occurs due to an overgrowth of fat cells.
Doctors consider fat abscesses to be benign tumors, which means that they are not cancerous tumors .
However, people may want to remove a lipoma that is causing pain, complications, or other symptoms. Some people are also concerned about the cosmetic appearance of fat abscesses.
Lipomas or fat abscesses can appear anywhere on the body where fat cells are present, but they tend to appear on the shoulders, chest, trunk, neck, thighs, and armpits.
In less common cases, they can also form in internal organs, bones, or muscles.
Fat abscesses feel soft and can move slightly under the skin when people press on them.
They usually grow slowly over a period of months or years and generally reach a size of around 2 to 3 centimeters (cm).
Occasionally, people have giant fat abscesses, which can grow to more than 10 cm.
Some people inherit a faulty gene from their parents that can cause one or more fat abscesses. This is rare and is known as familial multiple lipomatosis .
Fat abscesses can occur more often in people with specific medical conditions, such as:
- Gardner’s syndrome.
- Cowden syndrome.
- Madelung’s disease.
- Adiposis dolorosa.
Researchers have also suggested that some fat abscesses can result from a substantial impact injury to the area.
Symptoms of a fat abscess
A person with a lipoma will generally feel a soft, oval lump just under the skin. Fat abscesses are generally painless unless they affect the joints, organs, nerves, or blood vessels. In most cases, they cause no other symptoms.
A person with a lipoma that occurs deeper under the skin may not be able to see or feel it. However, a deep lipoma can put pressure on internal organs or nerves and cause associated symptoms.
For example, a person with a lipoma in or near the intestines may experience nausea, vomiting, and constipation.
Fat abscesses are benign masses of fat cells. However, experts disagree on whether or not fat abscesses have the potential to turn cancerous. A cancerous mass of fat cells is known as a liposarcoma.
Based on research, many experts have concluded that liposarcomas do not develop from lipomas, but are, in fact, a different type of tumor. They believe that doctors sometimes mistake liposarcomas for fat abscesses.
Conversely, other experts think that lipomas can contain both cancerous and precancerous cells, but that it is extremely rare for a lipoma to become cancerous.
Causes of a fat abscess
Trans fats can cause chronic gastritis.
High cholesterol and obesity are risk factors for developing a lipoma.
It is quite common for a person to develop a lipoma. Experts estimate that about 1 percent of people have fat abscesses.
People who have a family member with one or more fat abscesses are at higher risk of developing this condition. Fat abscesses are also more likely in people between the ages of 40 and 60.
Other risk factors for developing a lipoma can include:
- Obesity .
- High cholesterol.
- Liver disease
- Impaired glucose tolerance.
When to see a doctor
People should always inform their doctor if they notice changes in a lipoma or if more bumps appear.
These changes may involve:
- Suddenly getting bigger or bigger very quickly.
- Be painful
- Get red or hot.
- Turning into a hard or immovable lump.
- Causing visible changes to the overlying skin.
The CT scan can be used for adenopathy.
A CT scan can help a doctor diagnose a lipoma.
Doctors can usually diagnose a lipoma with a simple physical exam.
They can begin by inspecting and feeling the lump. If the lipoma is large or painful, the doctor may order tests to check if it is cancerous.
They can use the following tests:
- Biopsy, where the doctor will remove a small sample of cells from the tumor and examine the tissue under a microscope for signs of cancer.
- Ultrasound scan.
- MRI scan.
- Computed tomography.
When is removal necessary?
These abscesses are generally harmless, so most people do not need surgery to remove them.
People may want to remove a lipoma that:
- It is cancerous.
- It is large or growing rapidly.
- It causes bothersome symptoms, such as pain and discomfort.
- It interferes with the normal functions of the body.
- Causes distress for cosmetic reasons.
A doctor can often remove a lipoma surgically. One method is to make a small cut in the skin and then squeeze out the lipoma. The person is usually under local anesthesia during the procedure and should be able to go home the same day.
A doctor may need to make a more significant incision to completely remove the larger lipomas. It is also possible to remove some lipomas by liposuction.
To do this, the doctor will cut the lump and insert a thin, hollow tube through the incision. They will then use the tube to aspirate the mass of fat cells from the body.
After surgery, the doctor will usually send the lipoma material to a laboratory for analysis. These types of operations will often only leave a small scar once the wound has healed.
Lipomas are harmless, fatty tumors that can form under the skin. They are usually painless and do not require treatment.
However, a doctor can surgically remove a lipoma if it is causing pain or other symptoms, or if the person wants to get rid of it for cosmetic reasons.
Fatty tumors can be benign or cancerous. However, experts cannot agree on whether lipomas can turn cancerous.
It is essential to seek medical advice if a lipoma becomes painful, enlarges, or changes in some other way.