Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

The shoulder and neck are common sites for lipomas to occur.

The shoulder and neck are common sites for lipomas to occur.
beginning of content


2-minute read

Lipomas are soft fatty lumps that grow under the skin. They can grow anywhere in your body and are generally harmless. Lipomas only need to be removed if they are causing problems or if their diagnosis is not clear.

What is a lipoma?

Lipomas are reasonably common, harmless, fatty lumps. They are benign, meaning not cancerous.

The cause of lipomas is often unknown, but some families have a genetic tendency to develop them.

Lipomas can appear anywhere where you have fat cells and most commonly grow on the neck, chest, back, shoulders, arms and thighs. Sometimes lipomas grow inside the body and you may not be aware they are there.

In most cases, people only develop one or two lipomas. Occasionally, however, some people have lots of lipomas due to rare inherited conditions, such as familial multiple lipomatosis.

Symptoms of lipomas

Lipomas are typically:

  • soft and 'doughy'
  • small (1cm) but can grow larger (5-10cm)
  • moveable under the skin
  • slow growing
  • painless, but can become painful if they grow larger.

See your doctor if you have a lump that you are concerned about.

Diagnosis of lipomas

Your doctor will assess you and if the diagnosis is not clear, they may send you for investigations, including an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI scan or biopsy (a test of a sample of tissue).

If your doctor has any concerns or you want the lipoma removed, they may refer you to a specialist.

Some lumps that look like lipomas can be cancerous, such as liposarcomas. These lumps tend to be painful, fast-growing and fixed under the skin. In this case, your doctor will refer you to a specialist for diagnosis and treatment.

Some lumps that look like lipomas can be cysts. Cysts tend to be closer to the skin surface and firm to the touch.

Treatment of lipomas

Most lipomas do not need to be removed, unless they are painful or need formal diagnosis. Some people also have lipomas removed if they are in an obvious place and they are embarrassed by them.

The most common way to remove a lipoma is to cut it out surgically or use liposuction. However, lipomas may regrow after removal.

Last reviewed: May 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Lipoma (fatty lump) information | myVMC

Lipomas are tumours of fatty tissues. They often look like lumps under the skin, but are usually harmless.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Spina Bifida - Lipomas and Lipomyelomeningoceles | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

What is Spinal Cord Lipoma Spinal cord lipomas are a collection of fat cells that have formed into a lump or mass

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndromes - Lab Tests Online AU

Site map of article content

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Rare Cancers Australia - Directory - Liposarcoma

Rare Cancers Australia is a charity whose purpose is to improve the lives and health outcomes of Australians living with a rare or less common cancer.

Read more on Rare Cancers Australia website

Liposuction (cosmetic surgery) information | my VMC

Liposuction is the most popular type of plastic surgery or cosmetic surgery. It involves removing excess body fat that resists diet and exercise therapy.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo