The National Cancer Institute of the NIH, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, defines vascular tumors as, “A type of tumor that forms from cells that make blood vessels or lymph vessels.” ‘Vascular’ means blood- or lymphatic-related, and tumors are simply cells that develop abnormally and form various types of growths.
They are defined under ‘cancer terms’ on the above linked website, but vascular tumors may be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). The word ‘tumor’ carries a particular stigma due to its relationship with various forms of cancer; but not all tumors are cancerous or pose a risk for cancer.
Common Elements of Vascular Tumors
Due to the vast amount of information available on the internet (some of which is patently false), and the proliferation of rumors surrounding anything relating to cancer, there is widespread misunderstanding about vascular tumors. While your pediatrician or primary care provider can spot many forms of vascular tumors, some require advanced diagnostic efforts, as well as treatment by a vascular specialist.
Some common elements of vascular tumors can be found among all types. Some of them include:
- They can occur anywhere on the body
- They may be visible on the skin, just under the skin, or on internal organs
- Most vascular tumors are benign and pose no risk for cancer
- Most vascular tumors grow rapidly at first, then shrink in size over time
Types of Vascular Tumors
There are several types of vascular tumors. While some are more common and others are extremely rare, about one out of every ten children born in the U.S. have some sort of vascular anomaly, many of them tumors. A number are frequently referred to as birthmarks, taken from an old belief that a mother could perform some action during pregnancy (usually negative) that would ‘mark’ the baby.
The types of vascular tumors include:
- Hemangioma (Infantile and Congenital; infantile hemangiomas are by far the most common)
- Rapidly involuting congenital hemangioma (RICH)
- Non-involuting congenital hemangioma (NICH)
- Pyrogenic Granuloma
- Tufted angioma (± Kasabach-Merritt phenomenon (KMP)
- Kaposiform Hemangioendothelioma (± KMP)
Vascular Tumors vs. Vascular Malformations
Vascular anomalies are separated into tumors and malformations for better understanding, easier diagnosis and more effective treatment.
- Are not present at birth (except for congenital hemangiomas)
- Grow rapidly
- Shrink in size over time after growth (except for NICH)
- Are present at birth
- Grow in proportion with the child
- Do not shrink in time
Treating Vascular Tumors
Treatment for vascular tumors is always based on the unique case, the type of tumor present and how it impacts the patient. Since many varieties of vascular tumors shrink and disappear on their own over time, many times the specialist will adopt a watch-and-wait stance, requiring no treatments of any kind. Intervention can always begin if unusual changes are observed over time.
When the tumor impacts bodily functions or appearance, various therapies can be employed to treat it. This can be efforts to shrink the tumor or remove it entirely. Treatment modalities include medications, laser therapy and surgery.
The vascular specialists at The Vascular Birthmark Institute are world-renowned for their level of expertise and care when treating all manner of vascular tumors. Contact us today in New York City to schedule a consultation and exam for your child.