Lipoma vs. Cyst: Differences, Treatments & More

Close up unhappy woman looking at skin lesions in mirror (model)

If you notice a soft or hard lump on your back, forehead, or scalp, don’t be alarmed, it could be a lipoma or a skin cyst. Both types of growths are typically benign, although they can be uncomfortable and unsightly. You must see a professional to remove your lipoma or cyst. Read this post to learn about treatment options, recovery, and what to expect if you have a lipoma or cyst.

What Are the Differences Between a Lipoma and Skin Cyst?

A lipoma is a collection of fatty tissue that grows in a lump beneath your skin—usually between the skin and muscle. This lesion will feel slippery to the touch and will move easily under the skin if prodded. You can learn more about how a lipoma is diagnosed in our related blog post.

In contrast, a skin cyst is hard to the touch and occurs when your skin cells collect within the skin layers, trapping oil and other fluids in a sac. Two common types of skin cysts are sebaceous and pilar cysts.

Although lipomas and skin cysts can sometimes look like cancerous lesions, they rarely turn malignant. Your dermatologist may do a biopsy to determine whether your growth is benign or cancerous.

Do Lipomas and Skin Cysts Occur in the Same Areas?

Although you can get lipomas in any area of your body, they most commonly occur on the forehead, back, abdomen, torso, neck, and arms. Sebaceous cysts can occur on any part of the body with sebaceous glands, such as the face, neck, upper back, and chest. Pilar cysts typically form on the scalp.

Should You Remove a Lipoma or Cyst?

You may experience discomfort due to a lipoma or cyst, depending on the lesion size. As these lesions grow, they feel tender and sensitive due to the skin stretching over the fatty tissue. If your lipoma or cyst makes you uncomfortable or rubs against your clothing, it may be time to remove it.

Infected sebaceous cysts may need antibiotic treatment or to be drained. Once the infection is relieved, the cyst should be excised.

Options for Lipoma and Cyst Removal

Surgical excision is the best option to remove a lipoma or skin cyst. Our plastic surgeons use direct surgical excision to remove the growth safely. They first create an incision on the skin to remove the tissue based on the size of the lesion. Once the lipoma or cyst is removed, the skin is stitched closed, and you can return home. You can usually return to nonstrenuous work and light activities the next day, but full recovery may take several weeks.

You will be given a local anesthetic before lipoma or cyst excision so you’ll be comfortable during the procedure. Our surgeons carefully create the smallest incision possible to minimize scarring after lipoma or cyst removal. It’s rare for a lipoma to return after surgical excision.

Your lipoma or skin cyst can be easily removed, whether you’re concerned about it for cosmetic or functional reasons. If you want to learn more about lipoma or cyst removal, request a consultation or call us at (416) 663-9649 to schedule an appointment. We can usually remove your lipoma or cyst on the same day as your consultation.

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