For most people, the "beer belly" is caused by too much weight. In the case of Hector Hernandez, it had been discovered because of a 77-pound tumor in his abdomen.
Hernandez said he always considered himself a big guy. Before he consulted a doctor, he went on herbal diet to lose weight.
There was a problem: he was losing weight everywhere except his stomach.
"I was basically like a skinny person who has a huge belly," Hernandez said in an interview with USA TODAY.
In 2006 he visited a doctor and noticed the unusual size of his stomach. Hernandez said the doctor told him it was because people were growing differently. In his case, according to the doctor, it went straight into the stomach. "I left it at that."
Earlier this year, the 47-year-old resident of California saw a new doctor after he changed insurance. Since he had been diagnosed with hypertension and diabetes, he wanted an examination.
The moment the doctor came to the first visit, it was clear how urgent Hernandez's case had become. "He did not introduce himself or anything, he just said" oh my god, how long have you been like that, "and he touched my stomach," said Hernandez.
After seeing several specialists, he was diagnosed with a liposarcoma, a rare cancer that begins in the fat cells.
Dr. William Tseng, MD, a sarcoma expert at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California and Hernandez & # 39; s surgeon, said that sarcoma generally accounts for about one percent of all cancers, with liposarcoma being a subset of these tumors.
"It's essentially a fat cancer," Tseng said during an interview.
Tseng said that one of the complications of treating sarcomas is that symptoms do not appear to be severe. Hernandez said he had suffered from heartburn, but he thought it was nothing out of the ordinary. He also noticed shortness of breath.
Another complication: how connected is the sarcoma with the rest of the body. "Over time, the organs are pushed out of the way or the tumor surrounds the organs, but does not necessarily penetrate them," said Tseng.
After a six-hour operation in July, a 77-pound tumor was about the size of a 10-year-old child – safely removed from Hernandez's abdomen.
Since then Hernandez has said that he is now "much healthier". He has to return for CT scans every four months to make sure the tumor does not return and continue the tumor for several years. His heartburn is over now and his high blood pressure is over.
"There is so much I can do now that I could not do it before," he said. "I feel like another person."
A GoFundMe Page was created to help Hernandez pay his medical bills.
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