Imagine living with thousands of tumors on your skin.
That's how 43-year-old Charis Curbo of Mesquite has lived most her life.
The condition is caused by a genetic disease called neurofibromatosis type 1, NF1, which affects one in 3,000 people.
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Almost all patients with NF1 develop tumors called cutaneous neurofibromas that start in the nerve endings and grow up into the skin.
Although the cutaneous neurofibromas are benign, they are the most troubling symptom for patients, because they occur in the thousands.
"When the sunlight hits my chest, you can see them and it just really makes me feel not good," said Curbo.
Now, she's able to feel comfortable in her own skin thanks to a new medical technique at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
Dr. Lu Le, an Associate Professor of Dermatology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, has developed a surgical technique in which, with one quick motion, he removes the root of the tumor beneath the skin, and then closes the hole with a single stitch.
His technique is being tested in a clinical study that Charis Curbo is participating in.
"The goal was to make the surgical technique simple so that any physician, primary care physician, nurse practicioner, anywhere in the world can quickly remove these tumors for patients for NF1," said Dr. Le, who's removed about 50 tumors from Curbo's body.
"It's so much, so much better," said Curbo.
Dr. Le’s lab will also use tissue from Curbo for his research on the biology of how neurofibromas develop, which could lead to a prevention treatment.
Curbo will continue to donate to research in the hopes medical advancements will occur before tumors begin to form on the skin of her 10-year-old daughter, who also has NF1.
"I told him I'd be his first guinea pig. Call me and I'll be there in a heartbeat!" said Curbo.