Found a Lump In The Shower? It May Not be What You Think

Mark Davies is a consultant general surgeon and a coloproctologist at HMT Sancta Maria Hospital, in Swansea. He is also a member of the British Hernia Society.  

Since his appointment as a consultant in Swansea in 2007, he has specialised in the management of a range of colorectal conditions. He also undertakes elective general surgical procedures including laparoscopic cholecystectomy and hernia repair and manages general surgical emergencies. He is senior clinical tutor in surgery at Swansea University, and a member of the court of examiners of The Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Noticing a lump in the groin while you are in the shower is a scenario that would set alarm bells ringing for most of us. But in many cases, it is a sign of a hernia, rather than red flag indicating the more serious issue of cancer.

A very common sign of wear and tear, hernias can occur due to a sporting injury, chronic coughing, or physical exertion – even taking out the bins might lead to this painful complaint.

More common in men than in women, hernias occur when an organ, intestine or fatty tissue squeezes through a hole or a weak spot in surrounding muscle or connective tissue. They can present themselves at the abdominal wall, in the inner groin or upper thigh, at the belly button, or through an incision or scar from a past medical procedure.

As well as the tell-tale lump, sufferers will notice sudden pain when lifting, doing sit ups, or even when going to the toilet. Anything that puts strain upon the abdominal muscles can lead to the appearance of a hernia. Sometimes it will be enough for a patient to treat the area with rest, ice, compression and anti-inflammatory medication. However, if the pain persists, then surgery is likely to be the answer.

If left untreated a hernia can cause chronic pain, but, thankfully, it is a fairly simple problem to address, either by traditional open procedure or via keyhole surgery. It is a procedure I carry out very frequently at HMT Sancta Maria Hospital, by way of a simple operation to push back the protruding tissue, to reinforce the affected muscle with medical polypropylene mesh, then to seal the incision.

Recent reports in the media have cast a shadow over surgery using medical mesh, leaving some potential patients worried about having such an operation. There have, undoubtedly, been some cases where the use of medical mesh has led to problems for the patient. Clearly, any complications due to surgery are distressing for a patient and every surgeon will assess any such risks, working closely with the patient to make the best decision, in order to achieve the best results.

In the course of my clinical work I treat around 100 hernia patients each year, using what has become, undoubtedly, the gold standard treatment for hernia procedures, mesh surgery. I see it yielding the best results that hernia surgery has ever achieved.  Of course, there are inherent risks to any surgery, but those risks need to by carefully considered against the risks of not carrying out any surgical interventions at all, or carrying out non-mesh repairs, typically using steel or nylon stitches.

In reality, patients and consumers have by no means been shown a full picture by the media reports on mesh surgery. This is a real shame and it has caused unnecessary fear and distress. In the past, a patient who underwent treatment to fix a hernia, using the most up-to-date methods available before mesh treatment, faced a 20 to 30 percent recurrence of the hernia after their operation. This figure has dropped dramatically – it is now two to three percent. The risk of infection was higher then too. In fact, I have never seen an incidence of infection in the course of my practice while carrying out mesh surgery.

Typically, the patient will be back at home the day after surgery and recovery takes around six weeks, after which, they can go back to their regular activities and can typically carry on with their normal lifestyle.

Mesh has been one of the most exciting advances in hernia treatment and the materials have evolved, to make them easier for the body to accommodate, without losing their effectiveness. They are softer and lighter, with a more open weave, so there is more space between each filament and they are more flexible. If you are coping with persistent pain that you think may be a hernia, or if you have noticed a lump, you should talk to your GP in the first instance, who may then recommend surgery to alleviate the problem.

 

For more information about HMT Sancta Maria’s hernia repair procedures, go to: https://www.hmtsanctamaria.org/treatments/general-surgery-treatments/