Dr Pixie McKenna: The 'Embarrassing Bodies' GP talks paranoia, porn and planning ahead

 

I've met people who've used breast milk to cure infections and builders using WD-40 for joints, which they were evangelical about. Some are even crazier. People try all sorts of remedies in the privacy of their own home; they do it because there are lots of conditions for which we don't have any cures: eczema, asthma, arthritis. It's the hardest thing for me as a doctor when I say to a patient, "There's no cure for this."

I never wanted to do anything other than be a doctor My dad was a general practitioner, both my grandfathers were doctors and two of my brothers are. Growing up, patients would came to our home for appointments, so from the age of seven I was tutored to answer the phone if my mum was busy. If the caller said they had a pain in their chest, I had to ask if the pain went down their left arm, and if it did, I'd tell them to call an ambulance. I was a bit like NHS Direct.

No one would watch 'Embarrassing bodies' if we just stood there with an anatomical diagram It's been called voyeuristic, but if, after seeing loads of attractive rugby lads having their testicles examined, just one guy with a lump goes to their doctor, then it's worth it. But who'd have thought, when we were doing the first episode seven years ago, that discussing piles before watershed could turn into a regular series?

Many women now feel the need to look like women in porn, who make a living out of being naked My stance on labiaplasty has been controversial [McKenna has advocated the procedure for several patients]. But while some people can live with their body's foibles, some are psychologically distressed by a large labia. Should these procedures be funded by the NHS? I've changed my mind since doing Embarrassing Bodies: if it's stopping people from living a normal life, I'd have to say yes.

I'm hugely paranoid I had to go to a doctor in the summer for a colonoscopy and it set my mind racing: I was thinking that perhaps I had a perforated bowel, or I was going to have cancer there. So I became very selective about who was going to be doing it; I'm a terrible patient.

I'll never forget one lady who used coffee enemas for her Irritable Bowel Syndrome She saw an article about the enemas online and did one every day. She didn't even drink coffee. At first she used expensive French percolated coffee but by the end she was using own-brand cheap stuff. I was astonished. She got addicted to it over two years, but we got her off it.

I hate supermarkets as I always get stopped by people with questions Now if I'm asked I'll say, "You should go see your GP about that." Of course the problem in the UK is that there's often a three-week wait to see your GP and then they might get seven-and-a-half minutes, which isn't long. Bring back old-fashioned medicine, when people had their own doctor who knew the family and could see you on the same day.

I don't plan anything beyond 7pm each day I don't want to be bogged down with what's going to happen in November – who cares? So I don't bother getting clothes together or ironing for the next day. Imagine if there was an earthquake: I'd have wasted 20 minutes of my time the previous night when I could have been relaxing. Of course, when I get up the next morning I'm running around, shouting and swearing, trying to get out the door in time. It drives my husband insane.

Dr Pixie McKenna, 42, is a GP and presenter on Channel 4's 'Embarrassing Bodies'. Her new show, 'Health Freaks', airs at 8.30pm on Mondays on Channel 4 (drpixie.com)

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