Lipomas are growths of fat cells in abnormal places, but they are not cancerous. Although these lumps of fat do not intrinsically pose a risk to health, the positioning and physical size of the lumps can produce medical problems such as blockages. A cord lipoma is a lump of fat that is specifically associated with the spermatic cord in the groin of male patients. This type of lump often occurs in conjunction with a hernia of the area, or may be mistaken for a hernia.
Fat is stored within the body in specialized fat cells that are present in many areas of the body. When a person eats more food than he or she needs immediately, the extra energy is stored in the fat cells, giving the person more padding around and inside the body. The groin area also has fat storage cells.
Functionally, the spermatic cord is a part of the male reproductive system that stretches from the abdomen to the testicles. It contains blood vessels, nerves and the vas deferens. When a cord lipoma occurs, the source of the fat cells normally originates from the abdominal tissue in the vicinity of the spermatic cord.
Sometimes a cord lipoma is present and no symptoms are noticeable. The lumps are often found when a surgeon is operating on a patient for an inguinal hernia. Inguinal refers to the groin area, and a hernia is an unusual protrusion of bodily tissues from an area. Normally, parts of the body such as the intestines are held inside the body by a covering of muscular tissue on the abdomen. Defects or injuries in the muscle can allow the intestines to push outward and produce bumps under the skin.
Inguinal hernias tend to occur in men in the spermatic cord area, as this is an open channel which has the least strong muscular covering in the area. Although many inguinal hernias do not involve a cord lipoma, this type of lump is often found in inguinal hernia cases. Surgeons can simply separate the lump from the cord itself while dealing with the hernia. On occasion, what appears to be a hernia under physical examination turns out to be a cord lipoma when the skin is incised and the tissue revealed. Symptoms of a lipoma range from none to a sensation of pain or discomfort.
Although the spinal cord can also be affected by lipomas, the term "cord lipoma" is usually restricted to fatty lumps in the groin area of men and boys that are associated with the spermatic cord. Lipomas can also grow in most organs of the body, the airway and esophagus, and inside the joints. Reasons for removing lipomas, apart from alleviating symptoms, include an undesirable appearance, large size or for a biopsy to check that the lump is not another form of mass such as cancer.