Monday, July 2, 2012

Running Scare Factor #1 and Treatment: proper care of the nether regions

I don't know who else has gotten chafing between their thighs (or throughout the nether regions), but I have. I find it painful and much less fun to run for as long as the chafing continues. I've read about treatments and prevention online (I go with neosporin, lots of body butter, and running in well-washed spandex shorts. If dirty, though, any piece of clothing will make me chafe). These experiences are the first thing that flashed through my mind when I saw my first severe case of cervical cancer.

In this type of cervical cancer, if it is allowed to spread (i.e. not caught early), an operation will be necessary. The incision runs mid-thigh to mid-thigh on the inside of the thigh, right through the areas where I chafe. Then the surgeon just flaps the whole private area open. Once done with the cancer removal, they don't stitch up the wound but instead let it heal "from the inside out." This is because it is so difficult to clean and unhygienic that otherwise abscesses will form. This means a huge pus-filled mass between your thighs (another med student recently related that this happened to one of his patients, but I haven't seen it with my own eyes).

Strangely, the first thing I thought about was what this would mean for my running career. Wow, this makes MY chafing look pretty insignificant. Selfishly, I asked "is this and similar cases of cervical cancer preventable by getting a yearly pap smear?" The answer is YES.

If the cervical cancer gets really bad, as in the patient I saw, then multiple other things happen including having an ostomy bag system which can include a colostomy (i.e. there is a bag on your stomach that collects feces), an ilosotmy (a bag that collects undigested food that looks like feces with corn in it) and a urostomy (i.e. there is a bag on your stomach that collects urine). These are things I would like to avoid as a runner. The particular patient I have in mind was otherwise fully healthy and not young nor old with plenty of family to help her out at home, basically someone with whom I can relate. In summary, running scare factor #1 = cervical cancer. This type is easily identified and then treated with yearly health care.

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