This is a female record: the 15-year-old Dao Thi Lai from Vietnam has a 15-pound (7 kg) tumor. The huge tumor started to develop when she was just three and it has now covered a large part of her face and neck; soon, it could make her blind and block her air passages.
Nevertheless, the girl does have a chance: a team of surgeons at the University of Miami will remove the growth that already deformed the girl's face in an operation scheduled for April 29.
"Schwannoma tumors are not highly uncommon. However, the size of Lai's tumor is extremely rare and is possibly the largest ever reported," said Jesus Gomez, oral and maxillofacial surgeon at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center.
Schwannoma tumors represent tissue growths wrapping around the nerves. They are benign (not cancerous) and relapse chances are low. Still, "without surgery, Lai faces a life journey that will unfortunately end too soon because the rapid growth of the tumor will eventually impair her ability to breathe," Gomez said.
The girl was forced to stop going to school and, at the present moment, she can perform only minor tasks. Even eating, drinking, sleeping and walking represent a daily challenge. The case of Lai caught the attention of the International Kids Fund (IKF), which raised the funds ($107,000) for the girl's surgery in US.
The largest ever known tumor was that of that Romanian woman, Lucica Bunghez, who had a tumor of 80 kg (76 pounds), heavier than her own body. But facial tumors can lead to more severe effects. Huang Chuncai, 31, a Chinese man from the southern province of Hunan, had a 15 kg (33.3 pounds) tumor drooping from his head and face. This is the absolute world record. His case was one of neurofibromatosis. The tumors grow initially on nerves but they extend on the skin and bones. Even if hereditary in most cases, almost 30-50 % of new cases emerge spontaneously. By July 2007 the man was operated on.
Another famous facial tumor is that of the Portuguese Jose Mestre, 51: 12 lb (5.4 kg) in weight. The man really lacks a face.