Health Alert: Strawberry surgery

NATIONAL - A hemangioma, or a so-called "strawberry," is a fairly common birthmark in infants. There's a doctor who treats these marks early on, to avoid long-term skin damage.

It's a big day for Joshua Bolton - he's having surgery to remove a birthmark that appeared soon after his premature delivery.

Said Shane Bolton, "We weren't sure if maybe some tape had come off on his forehead with all the things that were, that he was attached to, but the doctor diagnosed it, and it was a hemangioma."

A hemangioma is a vascular tumor that most often develops on the face or head.

Dr. Milton Waner says, "It will grow to a certain size, stop growing and start shrinking. The whole cycle takes about nine months."

While the cycle may be predictable, the size of the resulting lesion and the months or years it takes to shrink aren't.

Dr. Waner says "it can take ten or twelve years, or two or three years."

Dr. Waner believes the earlier they're treated, the better, "We prefer to intervene during the active growth phase of the hemangioma 'cause we feel that with aggressive management, we can actually stop the growth or arrest the growth."

The enlarging hemangioma grows in the dermis layer and replaces collagen, the protein that keeps our skin elastic. When the tumor shrinks, the skin is thin and stretched out.

"Now this is the same skin that a person, say 90 or 100 years old, would have," Dr. Waner explains.

Early treatment was important to Joshua's parents, who wanted people to focus on more than his birthmark.

It's estimated that ten percent of all babies will develop a hemangioma. Doctor Waner says it is never too late to have the birthmark treated, even those that are several years old.

Posted by Bryce Mursch