A zit or a scar on our face can leave many of us unhappy with our appearance — even homebound. However, with the help of some over-the-counter (OTC) ointments, our skin woes tend to go away. For a Slovakian man, there was no OTC treatment that could alleviate the heavy burden of a 13-lb. facial tumor he carried with him for over a decade. After a five-hour operation, surgeons were able to successfully remove Stefan Zoleik’s fatty tumor that caused him years of constant pain and discomfort.
"It was very unpleasant," Zoleik told Reuters in a video. "It also bothered me all the time when I turned my head." The Slovakian man developed the rare condition called Madelung disease in 2004. This led to the accumulation of fatty tissue, or fatty tumors — lipomas — that progressively led to a loss of neck mobility and pain. The fat fibers began to grow wildly across his face, stretching across the lower portion of his face, below the chin, and from ear to ear.
Igor Homola, the surgeon who operated on Zoleik, explained the five-hour medical procedure to Reuters. "We will reduce the skin from here to show the chin so that we model the face correctly,” he said. Homola was able to cut away most of the tumor, proving to be a successful endeavor that has literally taken a weight off Zoleik’s shoulders after suffering for more than 10 years.
Prior to the surgery, the Slovakian man would get constant stares everywhere he went, but now he feels he has a “second chance at life without people’s stares.” "This is amazing. Much better than it was before, which was horrible. I even don't feel any pain now,” Zoleik said.
In the majority of Madelung disease cases, like Zoleik’s, the tumor is benign, although there have been cases in which lipomas have become cancerous, says the National Center for Advancing Translation Sciences. Madelung disease most often affects men of Mediterranean ancestry between the ages of 30 and 70 who have a history of alcohol abuse. The exact cause of the rare condition remains unknown, but it has been linked to mutations in the DNA and/or alcoholism.