This woman has balloon implants as part of a cure to her potentially cancerous facial birthmark

This woman has balloon implants as part of a cure to her potentially cancerous facial birthmark

  • In China, a woman suffering from congenital melanocytic nevus has to have her facial birthmark removed.
  • The mole wasn't considered malignant, until the patient complained that it hurt, thus worrying her doctors.
  • Before the extensive mole can be removed, doctors implanted four egg-sized balloons in her face to expand the skin to harvest the excess tissue.

When Chinese woman Xiao Yan first complained that her facial birthmark began to hurt, doctors didn’t blow their diagnosis out of proportion. That’s because the expansive mole on Xiao’s face could, in fact, be malignant and has to be removed immediately. But before they could proceed with the life-saving operation, Xiao needs to have more skin to replace the skin that will be removed during the surgery.

Due to the proposed skin grafting procedure, Xiao had to have four egg-sized balloons implanted in four areas of the face to stretch out her skin. In turn, the excess tissues will be harvested to cover the exposed areas.


Xiao was born with congenital melanocytic nevus, a birthmark found in about one percent of infants born worldwide. The patch, colored from light brown to black, covers any surface and part of the body. In Xiao’s case, the patch covered half of her face. She was always comfortable in her own skin, until she grew up.

The 23-year-old recalled:

“Despite the big black mole on my face, I enjoyed my childhood playing with my friends. I was carefree. But as I grew older, the fact that I was ‘different’ became increasingly magnified.”



Her mother Yang Xiu’e had to ask their neighbors to stop getting under her daughter’s skin because she looked different.



It was back in March when Xiao complained that her mole was hurting. This immediately concerned her doctors, explaining that if the birthmark wasn’t removed, it could turn cancerous.

Physicians at the Shanghai Ninth People’s Hospital proposed implanting her skin with balloons that are regularly injected with saline to slowly expand them, as well as her facial skin. Once doctors have enough excess tissue, they could graft these on her face after removing the huge mole.



It wasn’t an easy start for Xiao because the treatment was initially painful, pointing out:

“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.”

Because of her lumpy appearance, Xiao was hailed as the “Gourd Doll.” This affected her spirits, but the prospect of living a cancer-free life changed her perspective.





According to The Sun, the first phase of Xiao’s treatment, which started in October last year, cost £11,177, approximately PHP 811,000 in today’s exchange rate – something that they raised from donations. Recently, her family was able to gather about £5,588, equivalent to PHP 403,000, for Xiao’s follow-up surgeries. The entire treatment, which includes five to six more operations, is set to be finished by June this year.


What do you think of this story? Are you familiar with the method used on Xiao Yan? Share your thoughts or experiences in the comments section below.



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