Lymphangioma is a type of tumor that is most commonly seen in children under the age of two. These are benign tumors that usually pose no medical threat. There are several types of lymphangioma and they are classified by what they are made from which is determined by looking at the cells under a microscope. They mainly occur on the head and neck.
Lymphangioma can be diagnosed while a fetus is still in the womb using ultrasound. Babies and young children are usually diagnosed because a change appears in the skin or a mass begins to grow. Since there are several types of lymphangioma, the cells must be looked at under a microscope in order to reach an accurate diagnosis.
As mentioned, lymphangioma can be detected using ultrasound. Other than looking at the cells under a microscope there is no test that can be done to accurately diagnose lymphangioma. An MRI is sometimes helpful in showing the extent of the growth of a lymphangioma.
Treatment of lymphangioma depends on the type of lymphangioma. Unfortunately there is no one treatment that has proven successful across the board. Since lymphangioma do not generally present a medical problem, they are often treated for cosmetic reasons alone. If they go untreated and grow large enough then they can interfere with systems in the body. Since they are found mainly in the head and neck obstruction of the airways is a common problem. Radiotherapy and steroids have been studied as potential forms of treatment, but not with good results.
In some cases treatment involves just draining the fluid from the tumor, but since this only treats the symptoms of Lymphangioma, the fluid is likely to build up again. A newer form of treatment that is showing promise is OK432 or Picabani. OK432 is what is known as a sclerosing agent, meaning that when injected it causes the vessels to shrink. It has the same effect on the vessels of lymphangioma. This has shown particularly effective in treating the Cystic Hygoma type of lymphangioma.
Other forms of treatment advocated by some include cryotherapy, sclerotherapy, and cautery. Cryotherapy uses cold temperatures to slow down the growth rate of the lymphangioma cells and can sometimes destroy the cells. Sclerotherapy (as with OK432) involves injecting the tumors with a medicine to make them shrink. Cautery is a form of treatment where an instrument is used to burn the lymphangioma in an attempt to get it to stop growing.
The most effective treatment for lymphangioma is complete surgical removal. This is rarely possible without having to also remove some surrounding healthy tissue and for this reason lymphangioma often have a high rate of recurrence. However, since they are benign, prognosis is generally excellent.