Woman With Giant Facial Birthmark Has Balloon Implants To Avoid Cancer
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A woman born with a giant cancerous birthmark on her face is undergoing an unusual treatment to save her life: doctors are stretching her skin using four huge balloons.
Twenty-three-year-old Xiao Yan, from Longjing in the Guizhou province of China, suffers from congenital melanocytic nevus, the medical name for a particular type of lesion - in this case a birthmark -which affects one in 100 new babies.
With Xiao's giant birthmark now turning cancerous - itself a 1-10 percent chance - doctors have now taken the drastic step of implanting the balloons under her skin in order to grow new skin tissue.
The treatment, overseen by doctors at the Shanghai Ninth People's Hospital in East China, will give Xiao enough skin to replace the birthmark which will need to be cut out.
"Despite the big black mole on my face, I enjoyed my childhood playing with my friends, I was carefree," Xiao said.
"But as I grew older, the fact that I was different became increasingly magnified."
Doctors decided upon the treatment after Xiao's facial mole started hurting last March, advising that it could be a sign of cancer. Birthmarks like Xiao's can be more prone to turning cancerous than normal moles.
While doctors have promised Xiao a 'new face' at the end of the process, it hasn't been easy for Xiao walking around looking like she's got mumps all the time.
Xiao's mum Yang Xiua said she had to 'beg' neighbours in their rural village to stop making fun of her daughter. Some have even dubbed her the 'Gourd Doll' due to the balloons looking like gourd fruits.
Unfortunately Xiao will face looking and feeling worse for a while before she gets better - the treatment will require five more monthly surgeries and is set to conclude in June this year.
"During the first month of treatment, my face hurt so much because of the egg-sized expanders and the saline injections that I wanted to slam my face into a wall," Xiao admitted.
Amazingly, Xiao's modest family raised 100,000 yuan (£11,177/ $15,816) for the first stage of her treatment in Shanghai, which began last October.
Doctors planted the four expanders in her face and now inject saline into the devices twice a week, with Xiao facing several more months of pain before she can get the all-clear.
With a one in 10,000 chance of all of this happening to her, Xiao could be excused for feeling down in the dumps but is braving it. Admirable, really.
"I used to feel sorry for myself," she admitted, adding: "But I've grown up under the support of my family and now I'm much more positive."
Xiao's twin brother and the rest of her family are now raising funds for her follow-up surgeries and have managed to acquire about 50,000 yuan (£5,588 / $1,908) so far.
Hopefully Xiao's new face will end up feeling worth all the effort.