Lump or bump in neck, neck, back, shoulder or chest

A subcutaneous lump or bump in the neck, neck, back, shoulder, chest? This could be a lipoma. A lipoma is a fatty growth or lump, which is usually painless and benign. The bump does not cause any pain. A lipoma can occur anywhere on the body, but they are most often found on the torso (especially the chest, shoulders and back), neck, upper legs, upper arms and armpits. A lipoma usually does not need to be treated, but if a lipoma is mechanically disruptive or cosmetically disfiguring, the doctor can easily remove it surgically if desired.

Lipoma or fat lump

  • Lump or bump in neck, neck, back, shoulder or chest
  • What causes a lipoma?
  • Who is affected?
  • Risk factors for fat lump
  • Age
  • With certain other conditions
  • Genetic influences
  • What are the symptoms of a lipoma?
  • Phenomena
  • Annoying and disfiguring
  • How are lipomas diagnosed?
  • How are lipomas treated?
  • Buffalo hump (bulge in the neck)


Lipoma on the arm / Source: Sikander Iqbal, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-3.0)

Lump or bump in neck, neck, back, shoulder or chest

A lipoma is a subcutaneous swelling (felt as a soft, subcutaneous lump or bump), which is made up of fat cells in a thin, fibrous covering. A lipoma is in fact a benign growth of fatty tissue cells. Lipomas are most often found on the torso (especially the chest, shoulders and back), neck, thighs, upper arms and armpits, but they can occur almost anywhere on the body. You can suffer from just one lipoma, but you can also have several, spread throughout the body. Lipomas are common. If it bothers you, take comfort: you are certainly not the only one with a fat lump.

What causes a lipoma?

The cause of a fat lump has not yet been fully elucidated, but heredity appears to play a role. A minor injury can lead to the formation of a lipoma. Being overweight does not cause fat lumps. Lipomas are seen more often in women than in men. In contrast, the simultaneous presence of multiple lipomas is more common in men.

Who is affected?

Lipomas occur in all age groups, but are most commonly seen in middle-aged people. Solitary lipomas occur with equal frequency in men and women. Multiple lipomas are more common in men.

Risk factors for fat lump

Several factors can increase the risk of developing a lipoma, such as:


Age between 40 and 60 years old. Although lipomas can occur at any age, they most commonly occur in this age group. Lipomas are rare in children.

With certain other conditions

People with other conditions, including dercum disease (adiposity dolorosa), Cowden syndrome and Gardner syndrome (familial colorectal polyposis), are at increased risk for multiple lipomas.

Genetic influences

Lipomas are more common in some families.

What are the symptoms of a lipoma?


A lipoma or fat lump usually looks like this:

  • a small subcutaneous bump – usually between 0.5 and 3 centimeters in size (but sometimes much larger).
  • they are movable and have a soft, soft, rubbery consistency (not a hard lump on the neck).
  • they normally do not cause pain.
  • they often remain the same size for years or grow very slowly.


Annoying and disfiguring

Due to its location, you may experience discomfort from a lipoma. You may also have cosmetic objections to a fat bump, especially if it is in a visible place.

How are lipomas diagnosed?

A fat lump can usually be easily diagnosed based on its appearance. Additional research in the form of, for example, a biopsy (tissue test) is often not necessary.

How are lipomas treated?

In principle, a lipoma or fat lump does not require treatment. If the abnormality is in an annoying or unsightly location or is painful, surgical removal can be chosen. The size and location of the fat lump determine whether local anesthesia is sufficient or whether a regional anesthesia (epidural) may be necessary. In some cases the surgical procedure takes place under general anesthesia. Naturally, this is done in consultation with your treating physician. After removal, a piece of tissue can be sent to the laboratory for further examination. A recurrence cannot be ruled out. In this way, a residual lipoma can grow larger again.

Buffalo hump (bulge in the neck)

A bump in the neck can indicate a buffalo hump. This indicates a fat accumulation in the neck, and can be an additional consequence of obesity and overweight. The bulge in the neck is often caused if you gain a lot of weight in a relatively short time and develops at the top of the neck. A bump or bump in the neck and between the shoulders can also have other causes. For example, it may be due to a medical condition or certain medications. A buffalo hump can form as a result of Cushing’s syndrome, a collection of complaints and symptoms due to an excessive amount of cortisol in the body. One of the consequences of this is the typical distribution of fat, with fat accumulation around the abdomen (central obesity) and the neck (buffalo hump). Osteoporosis or bone decalcification and long-term use of steroids can also cause a buffalo hump. Treatment depends on the underlying cause.


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