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The goods, check'em if you've got'em.

November 18, 2009

Amber Flaherty, MD



Everyone knows that there is a breast self exam to help women detect cancerous lumps early on, but how many men perform a testicular self exam? You would be surprised that a large lump goes unnoticed in many men until it is diagnosed as a testicular cancer that has spread.

Testicular cancer is 99% curable when detected early, and is the most common cancer in men ages 20-34. There will be an estimated 8,400 new cases in the US in 2009 with 380 resulting in death. The risk factors for testicular cancer include an undescended testicle, previous testicular cancer, or a family member with a history of testicular cancer.

The common symptoms related to testicular cancer include:
-Small, hard lump, often painless
-Change in consistency of the testicles
-Feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
-Dull ache in the lower abdomen or the groin
-Sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
-Pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum

If any of the symptoms are present, it is imperative that they are checked out as soon as possible in order to rule out cancer or something more benign such as a cyst. Your physician should perform an ultrasound of the testicles to get a better idea of the cause of the symptoms.

How does one perform this testicular self exam you might ask? Or perhaps you think you know the boys so well you don't need to be instructed. Well just in case, here are some tips to be sure you are not missing anything (and be sure to perform after a warm shower to relax your scrotum):

-Stand in front of a mirror and check for any swelling on the scrotal area
-Examine each testicle with both hands using the index and middle finger underneath and thumb on top. Roll the testicle between the fingers gently to feel for lumps. If one testicle is slightly larger than the other, do not be alarmed, that's normal!
-Also examine the epididymis, or tube connecting the testicle to transport sperm, in the same manner.
-If you find a lump on a testicle, see your medical doctor or a urologist urgently. Even if you aren't sure, have it checked out so you are certain.

Everyone is familiar with Lance Armstrong's fight with testicular cancer. It can be beaten and is treatable, but like I mentioned before this is with early detection. So when your wife/girlfriend does her monthly breast self exam, go ahead and do your testicular self exam. Or do it nightly if you so wish.

NOTE - The USPSTF has amended their breast cancer screening recommendations. This is a discussion to be brought up with your primary care doctor. Click to view

REFERENCES:
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/testicular
http://tcrc.acor.org/tcexam.html


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