Lipomas of the nervous system are rare, benign (non-cancerous) tumors composed of fatty tissue. Lipomas in the brain are believed to be congenital abnormalities rather than true tumors and may be associated with other congenital abnormalities of the nervous system. Lipomas vary in size and can be found in the brain or spinal cord. Single or multiple tumors may be present.
In very rare cases, lipomas can be cancerous (malignant) and spread to nearby tissue or distant parts of the body. These are called liposarcomas. Epidural lipomatosis is a rare lesion that is not a tumor, but a response of the body and can be related to chronic administration of steroids or other diseases.
Lipomas most commonly appear in the corpus callosum. However, they can appear in other areas of the brain, usually close to the midline. Epidural lipomatosis occurs in the epidural space (the area between the vertebral bones and the membrane surrounding the spinal cord and cerebrospinal fluid) of the spine.
A lipoma may cause no symptoms and often goes unnoticed until a scan is performed for other medical reasons. When symptoms are present, they commonly include headache and seizures.
Conservative treatment is usually recommended because these tumors are benign and rarely cause symptoms. Surgery may be suggested in some cases. When surgery is performed, these tumors typically do not return.
Prognosis means a prediction of outcome. Benign lipomas have a good prognosis. There is limited data on the prognosis of liposarcoma.
Lipomas are very rare, accounting for less than 1% of all brain tumors diagnosed.
Lipomas are typically seen in adults aged 40-60.
There are no known risk factors for lipoma.
Molecular profiling is the detection of specific genes, proteins, or other molecules in a tumor. This information helps confirm tumor diagnosis, inform treatment options, and predict prognosis.
There are no known molecular markers for lipoma.
Page last updated in February 2023 by Marta Penas-Prado, MD, MSc
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