A 23-year-old Chinese woman who was born with a birthmark covering her face has had four balloons implanted under her skin to save her life as doctors fear the mark could become cancerous.
Xiao Yan is undergoing the treatment to grow new tissue that doctors will then graft onto her face when the birthmark is removed.
The condition, congenital melanocytic nevus, affects just 1 in 500,000 people and is defined by a birthmark that covers more than 2% of a sufferer’s body and requires more than one incision to remove.
The head, legs, and arms are most commonly affected.
Treatment can involve birthmark removal, however, scarring is likely.
Laser therapy can reduce skin pigmentation, however, in some cases the color returns.
In Xiao Yan’s case, doctors have opted for removal, though she will first have to endure several months of balloons stretching her skin in four areas before she can her operation.
Medics at the Shanghai Ninth People’s Hospital in East China first took action after Yan’s facial mole began to cause her pain last March, and they suspected it could turn cancerous.
Statistics suggest that there’s great variance in whether congenital melanocytic nevus will become cancerous, with higher figures suggesting 5-10% of cases result in cancer, and others as low as 1-2%.
Ms. Yan said she had been prepared to live with the massive mole on her face for the rest of her life.
“Despite the big black mole on my face, I enjoyed my childhood playing with my friends,” Yan said, adding: “I was carefree.”
“But as I grew older, the fact that I was “different” became increasingly magnified,” she added.
Her mother Yang Xiu’e recalled that she had to ‘beg’ villagers in their town to stop making fun of her daughter, who quickly became known as the girl with the mole.
Following recommendations from doctors last year, Yan’s modest family was able to raise 100,000 yuan ($15,600usd) for the first stage of her treatment, which she began in October last year.
“I used to feel sorry for myself,” she admitted, saying: “But I’ve grown up under (with) the support of my family and now I’m much more positive.”
Yan’s twin brother and the rest of her family are continuing to raise funds for her follow-up surgeries, and have raised 50,000 yuan ($7,800usd) so far.
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