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cystic hygroma

A cystic hygroma, more properly referred to now as a lymphangioma, is a benign (non-cancerous) tumor of the head, neck and axillary (armpit) region. It is a matted mass of vessles that arises from the channels of the lymphatic system in the upper body. It resembles a hemangioma except that the tissue contains lymph fluid rather than blood.

Treatment is surgical excision, but these tumors can be very difficult to remove if wrapped around delicate structures such as nerves and blood vessels. Delayed removal is thus preferred to allow the child to grow, but some lymphangiomas impinge on the child's airway and can cause breathing difficulties. In those cases, removal may be impossible to avoid. Infusion of the lymphangioma with a chemical (Picibanil) that causes the tumor to wither has been successful in some cases to cause reduction or complete obliteration of the tumor.

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