Check ‘Em Lads: Why Young Men Should Care About Testicular Cancer
Jamin Brahmbhatt, MD, Men's Health Network | 4/20/2018, 6 a.m.
In general, guys do not think about their testicles on a day-to-day basis.
Unless we have some pain or feel an abnormality, we let them go on with their day. The testicles actually are very important to the male body— they serve as a factory for sperm production, which is important for fertility. The testicles also are a main driving force for the amount of testosterone that circulates throughout your body. Both of these functions are crucial to us as guys.
One thing is clear: The testicles are not immune from cancer. In fact, one in 250 men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer, and it is the most common cancer in the age group of 15-35. April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, and this year alone more than 9,000 men will be diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society.
When caught early and treated, life expectancy rates are high and most guys live their lives without much worry, which is why awareness is so important. Screening for testicular cancer, does not require any sophisticated labs or imaging studies. Most screening for testicular cancer can actually be done by you— yes, you! By examining your testicles at least once a month, you are able to screen for most testicular cancers.
Go Head and Check ‘Em— The key to screening actually starts with you knowing what's normal and abnormal. During the exam, you should examine essentially every part of the testicle, top to bottom and even navigate your way up the cord itself. I generally recommend my patients check themselves on the first day of the month in the shower when the scrotum is relaxed. Go ahead and examine yourself and make sure you know when something becomes abnormal. If you do notice any abnormality or are concerned about something, you should definitely get yourself checked out by a medical professional who can either confirm what you found on exam or order imaging and lab studies to help figure out whether this is cancer or something benign, meaning something that's a normal variant in your testicle.
What You Should Look For— There may be some other symptoms of testicular cancer that may be present without any change to your testicle itself. One of those uncommon symptoms may be a heavy feeling in your testicles or in the lower part of your belly— even back pain. That feeling of pressure in your testicles or in your groin or your lower abdomen may be a sign of either enlarged lymph nodes or food collections secondary to the actual cancer itself. The other way is that you may not actually feel a hard lump in your testicle, but you may notice that one testicle may be larger or smaller than the other. If the cancer has migrated to other parts of your body, you may notice abnormal swelling in your legs. This swelling could be from your lymph channels being blocked, or it could also be the cancer increasing your chance of blood clots. Another abnormal symptom of testicular cancer may be enlarging breast tissue, or gynecomastia. As a guy, if you do have any of these symptoms or any abnormality that you just feel is not right, it's probably a good time to go and talk to your healthcare professional. This doesn't mean if you're outside the ages of 15-35 you're not going to get it because any guy at any age is still at risk for testicular cancer. The risk is just not as high, but it is still present.