It was March 2007. My then husband and I were living in Tumwater, Washington. He was stationed at the Fort Lewis military base at the time. I had just returned to our apartment in Tumwater after taking my 10-month old daughter for a walk. I began to feel sharp pain in my right side.
Thus began my journey. It turned out that my appendix needed to be removed. When the doctors at Madigan Army Medical Center (on the army base) diagnosed me with appendicitis, they had done a full chest X-ray and CT scan. They spotted something rather unusual. They described it as a five centimeter mass on the lower lobe of my right lung. They even showed me what it looked like! It looked big! Had I experienced any breathing problems, they asked. No, I never noticed anything out of the ordinary. They were perplexed. It had to be dealt with–they suggested a biopsy, but even if it came back benign, the mass still had to be removed, as it was so entwined with the lower lobe of my lung. So surgery was discussed.
But first, I had to have the appendectomy. I did, and two weeks after that, on March 27, 2007, I underwent major cardiothoracic surgery to remove this mass.
It took two weeks for the pathologists at the hospital to come back with a diagnosis. I was told the hospital’s pathologists had never seen anything like it before because there were so few cases in the world–one in 50 cases worldwide. The chief of cardiothoracic surgery, who performed my surgery, told me my diagnosis–sclerosing hemangioma.
What is it?
Sclerosing hemangioma is considered to be a rather uncommon tumor or lesion of the lung, ranging in size from 0.3 to 7 centimeters. It is generally a round, well-defined mass that can occur on one or both lungs.
Sclerosing hemangioma is typically diagnosed with a chest X-ray, a CT (computed tomography) scan or a PET (positron emission tomography) scan. The CT scan may show possible calcification of the sclerosing hemangioma, though it doesn’t have to be present in order for a diagnosis to occur.
Generally, those diagnosed with sclerosing hemangioma, like myself, have had no symptoms. Those that do have symptoms, complain of chronic cough or chest pain, or have hemoptysis (coughing up blood).
Treatment and Prognosis
The treatment for sclerosing hemangioma is to surgically remove the tumor. In most cases, an entire portion of the lung is removed. In my case, it was the entire lower lobe of my right lung. The prognosis for such cases is good.