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Florida girl, two, has her ‘Batman mask’ birthmark removed after pioneering surgery in Russia


Doctors in Russia have ‘safely removed’ a ‘Batman mask’ birthmark from a two-year-old girl from Florida using pioneering surgery.

Luna Tavares-Fenner, from Florida, had a huge nevus birthmark covering her nose and eyelids, and she made regular trips with her mother to Russia for more than two years for treatment.

The toddler had been receiving photodynamic therapy, a treatment which is not available in the US.

Luna was born with congenital melanocytic naevus, a skin condition that produces abnormally dark blemishes, usually across the face.

Luna Tavares-Fenner had a huge nevus birth mark covering her nose and eyelids, and she made regular trips with her mother Carolina (both pictured) to Russia for treatment

After six operations, Luna (pictured after treatment), aged two years and nine months, has had her birthmark removed and will return to Russia in the New Year for cosmetic treatment

After six operations, Luna (pictured after treatment), aged two years and nine months, has had her birthmark removed and will return to Russia in the New Year for cosmetic treatment 

The treatment is said to work by doctors injecting an unnamed drug into a patient, which then accumulates in the birthmark and causes the tissue to die, with new and healthy skin growing beneath. 

After six operations, Luna, aged two years and nine months, has had her birthmark removed and will fly home for Christmas before returning to Russia in the New Year for cosmetic treatment.

In an exclusive interview, Dr Pavel Popov told East2West News: ‘Luna has already started speaking and she says herself: ‘My black spot has gone. I am a princess’.’ 

Luna had surgery at a clinic in Krasnodar – a Russian city close to Ukraine amid high tension over reports of a new conflict between the two countries. 

Luna was born with congenital melanocytic naevus, a skin condition that produces dark blemishes, usually on the face. Pictured: Carolina and Luna wearing bandages after surgery

Luna was born with congenital melanocytic naevus, a skin condition that produces dark blemishes, usually on the face. Pictured: Carolina and Luna wearing bandages after surgery

The toddler (pictured after the treatment) had been receiving photodynamic therapy, a treatment which is not available in the US, where Luna and her family live

The toddler (pictured after the treatment) had been receiving photodynamic therapy, a treatment which is not available in the US, where Luna and her family live

Dr Pavel Popov said the treatment was a 'success' and added he is not yet sure how long Luna's cosmetic treatment will take. Pictured: Luna wearing bandages after treatment

Dr Pavel Popov said the treatment was a ‘success’ and added he is not yet sure how long Luna’s cosmetic treatment will take. Pictured: Luna wearing bandages after treatment 

THE TREATMENT

Luna was born with congenital melanocytic naevus, a skin condition that produces abnormally dark blemishes, usually across the face.

The treatment is said to work by doctors injecting an unnamed drug into a patient, which then accumulates in the birthmark.

This causes the tissue to die, with a crust forming over the skin. Beneath the crust, new, healthy skin grows. This is done alongside laser surgery, which helps to ‘clean up’ the edges and reduce pigmentation.

After the pioneering procedure only pink skin and small crusts are still there but will soon fall off.

It also coincided with the Covid-19 crisis, yet Luna and her mother Carol Fenner, 37, managed to keep returning so the girl could receive the groundbreaking treatment.

And there has been a heartwarming result from the operations which medics say has prevented possible skin cancer for the toddler.

‘We only had six operations to remove the nevus and have succeeded in making it disappear,’ explained Dr Popov.

‘The main medical part of the task is done. This does not mean that we have finished treatment at all.

‘We are letting Luna rest from the treatment she has undergone and then we will undertake the aesthetic surgeries.

‘Later we aim to make sure Luna will not have any complexes when she comes to the age where she is concerned about her appearance.’

He added that the treatment was a ‘success’ and said he is not yet sure how long Luna’s cosmetic treatment will take.

He said: ‘I am completely satisfied with the result of the surgery.

‘Luna is very loyal to us. Often there is an aversion to the medical staff. Children are afraid of doctors.

‘But Luna brings her dolls to the appointment every time – and asks me to treat their faces.

‘I attach a plaster to the doll’s face. Luna is happy that the doll is also treated. I guess the lack of pain in the treatment allows her to be so loyal.

The treatment is said to work by doctors injecting an unnamed drug into a patient, which then accumulates in the birthmark and causes the tissue to die. Pictured: Luna after treatment

The treatment is said to work by doctors injecting an unnamed drug into a patient, which then accumulates in the birthmark and causes the tissue to die. Pictured: Luna after treatment

There has been a heartwarming result from the operations which medics say has prevented possible skin cancer for the toddler. Pictured: Luna with her birthmark

Luna (pictured during process of having birthmark removed) had surgery at a clinic in Krasnodar - a Russian city close to Ukraine amid high tension over reports of a new conflict between the two countries

There has been a heartwarming result from the operations which medics say has prevented possible skin cancer for the toddler (pictured left and right with her birthmark)

Luna's mother (pictured with her daughter) said she was grateful that the treatment did not involve invasive and 'aggressive' surgery, which would have been the case elsewhere

Luna’s mother (pictured with her daughter) said she was grateful that the treatment did not involve invasive and ‘aggressive’ surgery, which would have been the case elsewhere

‘I can’t tell you how long the cosmetic part of Luna’s treatment will take. It depends on too many factors – pandemics, lockdowns, visas.’ 

Luna’s mother said she was grateful that the treatment did not involve invasive and ‘aggressive’ surgery, which would have been the case elsewhere.

WHAT IS A CONGENITAL MELANOCYTIC NAEVUS?

Around one per cent of babies are born with a CMN. However, they are often much smaller. In some cases, they can be hairy.

CMNs are sometimes called ‘brown birthmarks’ by medics. They get bigger as children age.

They don’t usually cause any complications but they can be itchy. There is a slight risk of melanoma, thought people with bigger CMNs face the highest risk – but it is still low. 

Dr Adil Sheraz, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, told MailOnline: ‘The word melanocytic refers to being composed of melanocytes – these are cells that produce pigment or colour. 

‘A naevus is another word for a mole. A mole that is present form birth is known as a congenital melanocytic naevus (or birthmark).’ 

Treatment is usually surgery to remove the blemish.

Full-thickness grafts may be required for large growths.

If surgery is not possible due to the size, location or thickness of the blemish, laser therapy may help to reduce pigmentation and make it less hairy.

Dermabrasion may also be used. This involves resurfacing the skin so it grows back smoother.

‘Luna is good now,’ she said. ‘Her bandages are off.

‘We’re going to fly away for Christmas and come back for the final cosmetic surgeries at the end of January.

‘I don’t regret at all having the treatment here. Luna doesn’t feel the pain.

‘She dances a few hours after the surgery.’

Carolina, a US citizen originally from Brazil, is ‘really happy’ and speaks to other mothers receiving different treatments in the US.

‘I spoke to a lot of mothers doing traditional surgeries in the US and they are more susceptible to infections.

‘The kids stay in hospital a long time, and undergo general anaesthetics.

‘Multiple anaesthetics would have demolished Luna’s physical and mental health. She had only local.’

Carolina and her husband Thiago Tavares, 33, raised tens of thousands of dollars for their daughter’s treatment in Krasnodar and also had the support of an anonymous Russian donor, which they called a ‘miracle’.

Before she left the US a cruel woman in a Florida church branded her lovable daughter a ‘monster’, an insult that prompted Carolina to put her daughter through surgery, setting her on a path that took her to Russia for the first time.

Speaking in 2019 about her daughter’s treatment, Carolina said: ‘When I decided to come few months ago everybody called me crazy.

‘But something in my head was telling me I should try.

‘People say mothers feel something, I feel it’s true.

‘I knew I needed to try and come.

‘I don’t know why, I just decided to give it a try.’  

Dr Popov convinced her online that he could cure her child without putting her through debilitating agony.

‘I wanted to avoid the aggressive surgeries that I was seeing with the other doctors in the US,’ she said. 

Dr Popov is a cancer specialist who has been ‘working in photodynamic therapy for over 20 years’. 

Luna is clear of cancer but the technique can also be used for patients with her condition.



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