Today we’re going to examine ourselves. And by ourselves, I mean our balls. Why, you may be asking, are we examining our bits and pieces today? Well, testicular cancer is the most common malignancy in young men between the ages of 20 and 34. It’s also is the number one cancer killer among men in this same age group. Who knew that the one thing two things that makes a man a man, can also be the very things that kill you?
The good news is that if detected early, testicular cancer is almost always curable. But in order to detect cancer, you need to know what to look for and also how to look for it.
This seems suspiciously sensible. I have always heard that men should do this regularly in the same way women should examine their breasts for lumps. I’ve never really bothered with it, though. I imagine I am one of the many examples of advertising campaigns going awry because of the constant input we get. I simply don’t care anymore about billboards. So, today, I will be giving myself a testicular exam. Do tell me more.
Do I Need Regular Testicular Self-Exams?
Most health professionals recommend all men between the ages of 15 and 40 have regular testicular exams performed by a doctor. This is usually done once a year at your yearly physical.
I’ve always wondered who gets a yearly physical. The last actual physical exam I got was in.. let’s see. Primary school? Sure, I visited the doctor a few times since then, but I never got a full physical exam. Maybe I ought to get one sometime. See what my blood pressure is, how I’m doin’.. I am dreading it a bit, though. Just two weeks ago, I went on my daily run (which I do now that I am back) and I had a bit of a competition with a 45-year-old woman in spandex. I did win, but it’s a bit sad that as a healthy 24-year-old male, I had trouble keeping up with her.
Anyways, let’s continue talking about balls.
If you have a history of testicular cancer in your family or if you had undescended testicles as a baby, it’s recommended that you perform monthly self-exams. Studies have shown that male children with a history of undescended testicles have about 10-40 times higher risk of developing testicular cancer. And here’s the kicker: both testes are at higher risk, not just the undescended one. If you don’t know if you had an undescended testicle, ask your parents.
I did ask; I didn’t.
The American Cancer Society doesn’t recommend that men who have no risk of testicular cancer perform regular monthly self-exams. But even if you aren’t at a high risk for testicular cancer, it doesn’t hurt to examine yourself every now and then. It’s fast, painless, and will give you peace of mind to know that everything is fine under the hood.
Under the hood? Is that lyrical speech for my genitalia as if I were a car? I wonder what someone would mean if they’d say their car battery is empty. Gives a whole new interpretation to the term “horsepower”, too.
Today’s Task: Give Yourself a Testicular Exam
It’s best to perform the exam right after a hot shower when the scrotal muscles are warm and relaxed. You know… when your balls are saggy.
- Stand in front of a mirror and check for any swelling on the scrotum’s skin.
- Exam each testicle with both hands by rolling the testicle gently but firmly between your thumb and fingers. Don’t worry if one testicle feels larger than the other. That’s completely normal. Fast fact: A man’s left testicle is usually larger than the right one.While you’re rolling each testicle in your hands, look for hard lumpson the surface of it.
- Don’t confuse the epididymis for a lump. The epididymis is the spongy, tube-like structure that collects and carries your sperm to the prostate. You can feel the epididymis on the top and down the back side of each testicle. This isn’t the sort of lump you’re looking for.
- If you notice any sort of hard lump on your testicle, don’t freak out yet. Just contact your doctor immediately.Complete and accurate diagnosis can only be performed by a trained medical physician.
In all seriousness, if you happen to have testicles, you should really check ’em. I took the liberty of doing some research (in this context it means I googled “statistics on testicular cancer” and clicked the first five links), and well, just check ’em:
Testicular cancer is a rare tumor type accounting for 1% of malignancies in men. It is, however, the most common cancer in young men in Western populations. The incidence of testicular cancer is increasing globally, although a decline in mortality rates has been reported in Western countries. It is important to identify whether the variations in trends observed between populations are linked to genetic or environmental factors.
Besides lumps, also check for:
Sudden acute pain during the self-examination could mean you have an infection in the epididymis or it could mean the spermatic chord is twisted up and blocking blood flow to your testicles. If you feel pain during the exam, go see the doctor.
You feel a soft collection of thin tubes above or behind your testicles. It’s often described as feeling like a “bag of worms.” This may indicate a varicocele.
What’s a varicocele, you might ask. Well:
An abnormality of the veins servicing the testicles may result in a varicocele. A varicocele can result in a decrease sperm production and quality. It can also shrink the testicles.
It can cause infertility. So while you’re at it, check for that, too.
To be honest, I really have no further comments. This is perfectly sensible, and you should all do that. If you’re a girl, then check your breasts. I just googled “breast examination” and here’s how you should go about it.
PS. Sorry about the picture. I couldn’t resist.
Man-meter: I feel good about my masculinity. I’ve contributed to the awareness of testicular cancer. Good going!