What was thought to be an allergic reaction to medications he was taking for a broken arm turned into something a bit more scary for a local teenager.
Doctors later discovered that Colton Bolen, a rising Barnwell High School sophomore, was suffering from juvenile nasopharyngeal angiofibroma, which is a vascular tumor mostly consisting of blood vessels that only occurs in adolescent males. This type of tumor is benign but grows rapidly.
Dr. George Harris, a pediatric otolaryngologist at Children's Hospital of Georgia, and Dr. Scott Rahimi, a neurosurgeon at Georgia Regents Medical Center, teamed up to remove the tumor.
They were able to successfully do so without leaving any scars, and Colton has successfully traveled down the road to recovery.
Finding a diagnosis
Tanya Bolen, Colton's mother, said the problems began last summer when he broke his arm that June.
Colton received a prescription for pain medication, and his face began to swell.
Initially, it was diagnosed as an allergic reaction, and he was taken off the medication but then his family noticed that he began snoring loudly at night.
The family doctor then thought that Colton had a bad sinus infection and put him on antibiotics but as time passed, his breathing patterns got progressively worse, Tanya said.
Colton was referred to Georgia Regents Medical Center and had a CAT scan. That's when the tumor was discovered.
Tanya said the tumor invaded the whole left side of his face to a point where it shifted his jaw about half an inch and was touching his brain in two different places.
“I would have never dreamed in my life that there was something like that in his face,” Tanya said. “I never would have known what he was walking around with. I was scared and wished it was caught earlier.”
The healing process
Dr. Harris said that these tumors are very rare and occur in one in 50,000 teenage males per year.
Another symptom of nasopharyngeal angiofibroma is nose bleeds.
Harris said nose bleeds are common in teenage males, but, if they consistently bleed from one side, and it's more than a cup of blood, seek medical attention.
The doctor said Colton described experiencing large volume bleeds.
When they first got Colton into the office, they noticed a little bit of facial dissymmetry as one side of his face was fuller, Harris said.
Once he had the CAT scan, a large mass about the size of a grapefruit was found inside his sinuses, pushing up on the eye sockets and base of the brain.
Harris said these tumors are not cancerous and don't destroy the area that surrounds it, but, as it grows, the bone responds by moving out of the way.
Once the diagnosis was established, it was time to take action, and it was described as a very “tactical” procedure.
First, they conducted the embolization phase, and, about two days after that, Colton was brought into the operating room.
The tumor was carefully and successfully removed in pieces through Colton's nostril and mouth.
The procedure took several hours to complete.
Harris said it's easy to find the edge of this type of tumor, which has a shell that makes it easier to peel it off the tissue without disturbing the natural linings of the nose and rest of the face.
Since the procedure, Colton has had follow-up appointments, and Harris said his most recent examination showed improvement and no residual disease.
“At this point, we can say he's cured,” Harris said. “I'm really proud of our team for getting it resolved pretty quickly for Colton. This is a fairly rare thing, and we're really glad he came to us.”
Amy Banton is the digital news editor for the Aiken Standard.