How are lipomas diagnosed?

In most cases, doctors can diagnose a lipoma with a simple physical examination. However, if the lipoma is large and/or painful, the doctor may order a test to confirm that the lump is not cancerous. These tests may include a biopsy, computed tomography (CT scan), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

A biopsy is a procedure in which a small piece of the fatty tissue is removed from the lipoma so it can be examined under a microscope for signs of cancer. An MRI uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to take a series of very clear, detailed pictures. Like an MRI, a CT scan (or CAT scan) is a procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures, taken from different angles.

Once a lipoma is diagnosed, your doctor will discuss whether treatment is needed and what the options are.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/18/2016.


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  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Liposuction Accessed 3/31/2016.

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