Symptoms of a Fatty Tumor

A fatty tumor, medically known as lipoma, is a noncancerous (benign) growth of fat tissue under the skin or, less commonly, in an organ. It occurs when there is an overgrowth of adipocytes (fat cells) in any place of the body where fat cells grow.

Fatty tumors can happen at any age but are more common in people between the ages of 40 and 60 years old. Men tend to be more affected than women.

The symptoms of a fatty tumor vary greatly upon its location. In most cases, they are painless, soft lumps under the skin causing very few issues. This article will discuss fatty tumor symptoms, complications, and when to see a healthcare provider.

Man and Woman Speaking With Doctor

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Frequent Symptoms

While each person will experience fatty tumors differently, these are the most frequently seen symptoms:

  • Skin lump: The fatty tumor generally develops as a lump just under the skin. They are usually found on the trunk of the body, arms, or neck.
  • Soft: Fatty tumors are soft and doughy to the touch. They should give slightly when pressed.
  • Moves easily: The typical fatty tumor should move slightly when pressed; this is called the slippage sign. It should not be firmly attached to a spot.
  • Small: Most fatty tumors are usually less than 2 inches wide but can grow to be larger.
  • Painless: Fatty tumors generally do not cause pain, but they can depending on location. For instance, if the fatty tumor is pressing against a nerve or sensitive area, it can cause pain.
  • Grows slowly: Fatty tumors grow slowly over time.

Rare Symptoms

Uncommon symptoms of fatty tumors include:

  • Deep location: Fatty tumors are a type of mesenchymal tumor, or connective tissue, tumor. They are usually found close to the skin surface. However, in rare instances, they can be found on internal organs like the intestines and stomach.
  • Extreme pain: Fatty tumors are normally painless. Yet there is a condition called adiposis dolorosa that is associated with having fatty tumors that cause significant pain.
  • Nerve compression: When a fatty tumor is pressing against a nerve, it can cause pain and burning.
  • Cancerous tumor: Almost all fatty tumors are benign. Nevertheless, there is a rare type of cancer called liposarcoma that has many of the same symptoms as a fatty tumor. Only a healthcare provider can provide diagnostic testing to determine if the lump is a liposarcoma or a noncancerous lipoma.


Fatty tumors are not usually a serious medical problem and have few complications.

If a fatty tumor starts growing elsewhere than under the skin, it can cause serious complications. There are reports of endobronchial lipomas, a fatty tumor growing in the bronchus of the lung, which causes difficulty breathing.

Other reports have shown lipomas growing in the heart. These tumors make it hard for the heart to pump effectively, causing various symptoms which can include dizziness, shortness of breath, and irregular heartbeat.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

A fatty tumor is a benign growth under the surface of the skin. Any new growth should be evaluated by a healthcare provider. They will be able to determine if testing is necessary to distinguish benign growth from something more serious.

While not necessary, many people choose to have lipomas removed due to their appearance. This will need to be done by a healthcare provider. Using home treatments will not eliminate a fatty tumor.


Fatty tumors, also known as lipomas, are noncancerous growths under the surface of the skin. They are soft to the touch and can be moved when pressed. These growths do not pose any serious medical threat but should be monitored for changes. If the fatty tumor grows internally it can cause additional symptoms based on its location.

In rare cases, a lump under the skin can be a liposarcoma. This is a cancerous growth that must be diagnosed and treated by a healthcare provider.

A Word From Verywell

Finding a lump under your skin can be concerning. If you find a new growth, it's time to contact your healthcare provider. If you find out your growth is a fatty tumor, there is no need to worry. These noncancerous growths are more of an annoyance than anything else.

Some people do not like how fatty tumors look and will have them removed by their healthcare provider. How and when they are removed is up to you and your provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes fatty tumors?

    Experts are not sure what causes fatty tumors. They do know that they tend to run in families and have a genetic component. Fatty tumors are more often seen in people with diabetes, high cholesterol, and those affected by obesity.

  • How are fatty tumors removed?

    Most fatty tumors are removed through outpatient surgery. A healthcare provider will numb the area and make a small incision to then remove the lump.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kolb L, Barazi H, Rosario-Collazo JA. Lipoma. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing.

  2. MedlinePlus. Lipoma - arm.

  3. Charifa A, Azmat CE, Badri T. Lipoma pathology In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls

  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Liposarcoma.

    • Anbazhakan L, Ullah A, Munagala R, et al. Endobronchial lipomaAutops Case Rep. 2022;12:e2021377. doi:10.4322/acr.2021.377
  5. Ismail I, Al-Khafaji K, Mutyala M, et al. Cardiac lipomaJ Community Hosp Intern Med Perspect. 2015;5(5):28449. doi:10.3402/jchimp.v5.28449

By Patty Weasler, RN, BSN
Patty is a registered nurse with over a decade of experience in pediatric critical care. Her passion is writing health and wellness content that anyone can understand and use.