Tiffany Chancheya, hemangioma patient

December 01, 2012
Tiffany Chancheya, hemangioma patient

When Tiffany Chancheya was born in October 2005, she had a quarter-inch reddish mark on one cheek. Tiffany's parents, Tim and Samay Chancheya, grew worried several months later because the small splotch, later diagnosed as a hemangioma, had darkened and was mushrooming in size.

Hemangiomas are birthmarks caused by the development of abnormal blood vessels in the skin. They are usually present at birth, although in some cases they emerge a few months later.

"Her face was swollen pretty badly and we had no idea what it was," Tim Chancheya says of his daughter. "Our doctor referred us to a skin specialist and that's how we discovered Tiffany had a hemangioma." By then, "it covered almost the entire right side of her face."

Hemangiomas and other types of vascular malformations, including port-wine stains, can have a devastating impact on a child's quality of life and social interactions—particularly when they result in facial disfigurement. If a hemangioma is treated in early childhood, however, improvements in its size and appearance can be dramatic.

The Chancheyas knew they needed help but weren't sure where to turn until they learned about Dr. J. Stuart Nelson, medical director of UC Irvine's Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic.

"My niece surfed the Internet and discovered Dr. Nelson," recalls Tim, a construction project manager. "She told me we had to take Tiffany to UC Irvine to see him."

The couple learned that Nelson not only specialized in treating birthmarks and other vascular malformations, he also developed a procedure called cryogen spray cooling (CSC), which keeps the skin cool during laser therapy treatments to eliminate the tangle of abnormal blood vessels. That allows the physician to work for a sustained period on a larger area without damaging delicate skin tissue.

Tiffany began receiving laser skin surgery with CSC at six months of age. After about nine treatments over the next 18 months, the redness was mostly gone and the hemangioma had shrunk significantly. Continued treatments every three to six months after that all but eliminated the most visible evidence of the abnormal blood vessels by the time Tiffany had turned five. She has continued to receive treatments every three to six months to stimulate the formation of new collagen and improve the texture of the skin in the affected area.

Tiffany is now in first grade and her birthmark is "98 percent gone," Tim says. "Dr. Nelson says he wants to do one or two more treatments to make her skin smooth, to make it 100 percent."

Tiffany and her parents are delighted with her progress, especially because the birthmark was mostly gone by the time she entered school.

"Without Dr. Nelson I don't know what we would have done," says Tim. "We are so grateful to him and his wonderful staff for helping Tiffany."

Learn more about Dr. Nelson »

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