June 15, 2006

World’s Tallest Woman Starts Treatment in Shanghai

SHANGHAI -- Yao Defen, believed to be the world's tallest woman, has begun treatment in a Shanghai hospital to rid her of a brain tumor at the root of her gigantism.

Yao, from a poor farming family in eastern China's Anhui province, measures 2.36 meters (7.75 ft), Chinese doctors say. That is 5 cm (2 inches) more than Sandy Allen of the United States, who is currently listed by Guinness World Records as the world's tallest woman.

Yao suffers from a large tumor in the pituitary gland of her brain, which has stimulated her body to release excessive amounts of growth hormone and made her bones weak, doctors say.

"I hope my bones will get better, but I'm worried that they won't be able to cure me," Yao told Reuters on Thursday by telephone from Ruijin Hospital. The hospital is providing her with free care.

"I will never be able to lead a normal life, but I hope I'll be able to take care of myself, buy groceries and cook my own food. Now it makes me too tired."

The 36-year-old woman is now being treated with an inhibitor of growth hormone, her brother Yao Deqing said. She will be examined in the second half of this year, after which the hospital will decide when to conduct surgery.

"She has shown good responses to medicines we used on her tumor, which is expected to shrink by 30 percent when we do the surgery," Ning Guang, vice president of Ruijin Hospital, told the Shanghai Daily.

Yao gained most of her height during childhood, and suffers from medical problems such as an enlarged heart and osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break.

She previously worked with a circus to support herself and her mother, and was only able to receive treatment after her story was broadcast internationally by the Discovery Channel.