A woman born with a huge mole covering her face now has four egg-sized balloons under her skin as part of a drastic op to save her life. Doctors fear Xiao Yan’s birthmark could turn cancerous, if they don’t try to remove it. The 23-year-old was born with the rare mole, a congenital melanocytic nevus – a type of birthmark that affects around one per cent of babies worldwide. Last March, when Xiao began to complain the mole was hurting, medics became concerned. They warned without treatment, which is taking place at the Shanghai Ninth People’s Hospital in east China, the birthmark could become cancerous. Doctors said the 23-year-old’s condition will have to get worse before it can get better. So far, they have inserted the four egg-sized balloons under her skin. They are regularly injected with saline, to gently expand them – stretching the skin as they do. The idea is that by stretching Xiao’s skin, when specialists remove the mole, they will have enough skin to replace it with. Xiao, from the rural village of Longjing in Guizhou province in south-western China, would have to face living with the massive mole without the treatment. “Despite the big black mole on my face, I enjoyed my childhood playing with my friends,” she said. “I was carefree. “But as I grew older, the fact that I was ‘different’ became increasingly magnified.” Her mum Yang Xiu’e said she had to “beg” the villagers to stop making fun of her daughter, who became the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons. Following recommendations from doctors last year, Xiao’s poor family managed the wholly improbable task of raising £11,177 for the first stage of her treatment in Shanghai, which began in October. Doctors planted expanders in her face and now still inject saline into the devices twice a week. “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 said. Her treatment will continue for a further five months – and will include five or six more surgeries – ending in June this year. “I used to feel sorry for myself,” the brave young woman admitted, saying: “But I’ve grown up under the support of my family and now I’m much more positive.” Xiao has been dubbed the “Gourd Doll” because the lumps on her face resemble the shape of gourd fruits. Her twin brother and the rest of her family are continuing to raise funds for her follow-up surgeries and have managed about £5,588.