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What Causes Breast Lipoma?

By Maggie J. Hall
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Breast lipoma may develop as an hereditary condition or because of prior tissue injury or trauma. This benign tumor lies just beneath the skin, and unless significant changes occur or the soft tissue tumor affects mobility, medical treatment is generally not required. Lipomas may develop anywhere in the body, including the neck, torso, abdomen, and limbs.

The physiological events surrounding breast lipoma development involve a fat cell growing and dividing more frequently than usual. The new cells grow and divide abnormally, resulting in an adipose tissue tumor. A fibrous capsule develops around these cells. The growths feel soft and rubbery to the touch and generally move easily beneath the skin’s surface. The lipoma typically develops as a painless, singular lesion.

Women having family members with this condition are more likely to develop this type of lesion. Other inherited risk factors include Dercum disease, or adiposis dolorosa. This condition not only produces multiple, painful lipomas but also neurological and mental health symptoms. Individuals with familial multiple lipomatosis generally develop multiple lesions. Gardner syndrome is a rare disorder in which multiple noncancerous or precancerous lipomas develop, not only under the skin, but also in various organs.

When surgically removed, the adipose tissue generally resembles the yellow fat found under a chicken’s skin. Measurements of a breast lipoma average from 0.4 inches (1 centimeter) to 1.2 inches (3 centimeters) in diameter. Under unusual circumstances, these harmless growths may measure 2.3 inches (6 centimeters) or more in diameter. Once formed, the lipomas grow slowly and may stay the same size for a number of years. The condition is seen most often in postmenopausal women aged 40 to 60.

Assessment and diagnosis of breast lipoma usually includes imaging studies. On an x-ray, the lipoma generally appears as a translucent grey mass surrounded by an opaque capsule. Mammogram or ultrasound images usually show a well-defined smooth or lobulated mass. Though the tissue growth is abnormal, lipoma tissue is not considered a malignancy. Treatment typically involves monitoring the lesion for changes.

Patients may require surgical removal or other treatment if the breast lipoma becomes inflamed, painful, or begins draining a foul smelling fluid. Further testing or possible removal may be required if the tumor rapidly increases in size. In rare instances, cancer cells may develop in the general location of the breast lipoma. These malignant growths are generally not produced from the lesion itself, however.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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