Today, Shannon is the author of a book, “Birthmarks: A Guide to Hemangiomas and Vascular Formations,” and runs the foundation with Waner as its medical director.
She advises parents to be sure that any mark is properly diagnosed. While most don’t require treatment, complications can occur in some cases, especially if a hemangioma is near the nose and affects breathing. If a port wine stain is over an eye, it can be associated with glaucoma or other problems.
Antaya agrees that proper diagnosis is key. “The problem with a lot of these marks is that we have so many names for them. The nomenclature has plagued medicine.”
You’ll often hear doctors refer to birthmarks as port wine stains, hemangiomas, stork bites, angel kisses, salmon patches, strawberry marks and midline venular malformations, according to Shannon, but they’re all different and need to be looked at differently. “Go to a doctor who knows and understands birthmarks,” she said. “You can go to 10 pediatricians and only one will know about them.”
The type of hemangioma Shannon’s daughter had required surgery. Shannon was certain that the collection of blood vessels would most probably resolve itself, or involute, but she was concerned that it would leave excess of skin. “Every other doctor told me it would take three to five operations to have her look normal,” said Shannon. “Dr. Waner told me he could have her looking normal in one three-hour procedure.” And he was right. Today her 6-year-old doesn’t have one sign of her hemangioma. Good surgeons are hard to find, according to Antaya. “You need a special surgeon; someone who is very good at it.”
“There’s a lot of new technology out there,” he added. “A lot of research is going into this, especially on how to stop blood vessel growth.
Within time, we’ll have even better treatments.”
Shannon also predicts that with time, doctors will understand why birthmarks occur. “There’s one common denominator,” she said, “infection during pregnancy, like a sinus or urinary tract infection, or something like that.” New research, she said, is focusing on the placenta. “If something disrupts the placenta, it can disrupt the fetus. But it’s hard to test and prove.”