A woman who suffers from one of the world’s worst cases of gigantism has finally stopped growing thanks to aggressive new treatment.
Tanya Angus, 33, from Las Vegas, stands at nearly 7ft tall and weighs 400lbs having suffered from the rare pituitary disorder acromegaly for over a decade.
Efforts to treat the condition, that causes the body to produce too much growth hormone, remained unsuccessful until now, and Ms Angus, who was a slender 5ft 8 and 130lbs at the age of 21, continued to grow.
Over the past year, however, Ms Angus has been treated with a new drug, that has finally helped regulate her growth hormone levels.
Acromegaly, which affects 20,000 people in the U.S., is usually caused by a non-cancerous tumour on the pituitary gland. Ms Angus has undergone radiation and surgery three times in an effort to have hers removed, but, as it is wrapped around her carotid artery, it has proved too difficult.
If left untreated, acromegaly can be life-threatening, as it causes organs such as the heart and lungs to grow along with height and weight.
Sufferers are at higher risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure, while the pressure on their joints causes swelling and early onset of osteoarthritis.
Dr. Laurence Katznelson, professor of medicine and neurosurgery at Stanford University Hospital in California, told ABC: ‘Their mortality rate is two to four times greater than the general population.’
Describing the symptoms of acromegaly, which is not hereditary, Dr Katznelson said: ‘Everything gets thicker and the facial features become abnormal.’
Ms Angus, for now, is thrilled by the improvement in her condition.
She told KTNV: ‘This is such good news.’
Her mother, Karen Strutynski added: ‘This gives us renewed hope.’
Despite the improvement in her condition, Ms Angus’s acromegaly has taken a serious toll on her health.
She can barely walk and is in constant pain when she does – the only place she feels relief is a swimming pool, where the pressure on her joints is eased.
One surgery caused a stroke that severely damaged her hearing, another 13-hour procedure nearly killed her.
It is a far cry from Ms Angus as a energetic 21-year-old, a keen horse-rider who loved dancing. Then 5ft 8in and 130lbs, she began to notice that her clothes no longer fit her, and her hands had become enlarged.
‘She was perfectly normal, but by age 22 she had grown three inches,’ her mother revealed. ‘Nobody knew what was going on.’
Ms Angus, who had been working as a supervisor at a Walmart in Michigan, was fired from her post when her head grew larger, and was dumped by her boyfriend when his parents questioned whether she was a man.
Not long afterwards, in 2002, she moved home to Las Vegas where a doctor quickly diagnosed her acromegaly.
Though she admits her appearance upsets her, Ms Angus hopes to inspire others with the same condition – indeed, she already receives many messages of support.
‘I read emails that people send in saying, “You’re my inspiration,” or, “You are so strong,”‘ she told ABC.
‘If I am helping other people, I feel I can do anything.’