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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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August 2001

Q. My 21-year-old son has been getting these painless lumps on his body. It first showed on his arm, then his leg and upper thigh. He says he has more. He has been to several doctors and has two of them removed. They don't hurt but seem to get larger. His doctor told him these lumps are like fatty tissues or lumps and there is nothing to worry about. Now as his mother, I would like to know more about it. Is this harmless; what causes it and can it be prevented from multiplying and growing? The last one he had removed was large and he needed about 12 stitches after removal!

A. Your description sounds like a good one for lipomas, bothersome but harmless tumors which appear under the skin. There is likely a genetic component as patients often have several such growths as you describe. Once the diagnosis has been confirmed by a biopsy or removal, it is usually not necessary to remove all such growths that are found, as the resulting scars are often worse in appearance than the lipomas themselves. Certain types of cancer can be hard to distinguish from benign lipomas; your family doctor or a specialist in surgery can help you decide what treatment is best.



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