Dr. Susie Gronski
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Check Your Nutsack For Lumps

In the words of Tom Green, “feel your balls, squeeze your balls, tease your balls, please your balls. Early detection is the key.”

April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month and what better way to grab hold of your attention than talking about playing with your balls.

Testicular cancer is rare but it’s the most common cancer effecting men between the ages of 15-34 years old. It also has the highest survival rate, and if detected early, is almost 100% curable. Interestingly enough, it turns out that guys are shy about getting help. Asking questions about their genitals scares them because they fear the worst. Men are also less likely to visit the doctor than women and have a tendency to wait longer to seek care if they do notice something’s wrong. Like with many other cancers, early detection is key.

Types of testicular cancers:

Seminoma- tumors formed by the cells that make sperm; it's slow growing.  

Non-seminoma- tumors formed by many different cell types; it's faster growing than seminoma type cancers.

**Both types are very curable if detected early on**

Risk factors:

  • Undescended testicle
  • History of testicular cancer in the opposite testicle
  • Family history of testicular cancer
  • Infertility
  • Race- Caucasian men are more at risk
  • Environmental exposure- chemicals used in pesticides, paints, electrical equipment and flame-retardants, tobacco, marijuana
  • Microcalcifications- mineral deposits of calcium in the testes have been associated with testicular cancer

Signs and symptoms of testicular cancer:

  • Painless swelling of testicle
  • Small, hard, painless, or a slightly tender lump on the testicle
  • Dull ache or heaviness in lower abdomen/scrotum
  • Sudden pain in scrotum
  • Sudden weight loss, lack of appetite, or lower leg swelling

Why you should check your balls once a month:

  • Learn to be more comfortable examining your own body
  • Know when to recognize when something’s not right
  • Early detection is key
  • Become more aware of other diseases effecting your testicles, not just testicular cancer
  • Empowers you to take control of your own sexual health
  • Relief knowing your boys are ok

How to perform monthly testicular self-exams:

Out of 740 male surveyed, 60% admitted that they didn’t perform testicular self-exams because they just didn’t know what to look for.  Here’s a handy dandy cheat sheet that walks you through a testicular self-exam. Believe it or not, there’s also an app called Ball Checker that guides you through a self-exam and even has a calendar to remind you to do it every month.

MOnthly Testicular Self-Exam

Besides checking your testicles for early cancer detection, you should also be aware of several other testicular issues:

  • Hydrocele- fluid accumulation in the tunica vaginalis of the scrotum (layer of connective tissue surrounding the testicles) that can cut off blood supply to your testicle and cause it to shrink
  • Indirect hernia- where fatty or intestinal tissue bulge through the inguinal canal, spermatic cord or testes
  • Varicocele- abnormal twist of veins described as a “bag of worms” in the spermatic cord that can cause infertility, but is correctable
  • Epididymitis-Orchitis- Inflammation of the epididymis (coiled tube on top of testes where sperm matures and is collected) and testicle. Often times detecting inflammation of the epididymis and testicles are some of the first signs of Mumps, the kissing disease, and Chlamydia; an STD.
  • Genital warts- such as HPV (human papillomavirus)
  • Scrotal melanoma- skin cancer of the scrotum

So guys, go ahead and touch yourself, play with your balls and get to know your body parts. You’ll be relieved you did. If this article doesn’t cut it for you then maybe this song will. Enjoy!

 
 
 

Kennett A, Shaw J, Wooley P 2014 Testicular self-examination amongst genitourinary medicine clinic attendees. International Journal of STD & AIDS 25: 844-850

Anderson J, Thomas F 2013 Testicular cancer and self-examination. InnovAiT 6(2): 93-102.

Stevenson SM, Lowrance WT 2015 Epidemiology and Diagnosis of Testis Cancer. Uro Clin North Am Aug;42(3):269-75

Shepherd L, Watt C, Lovell B 2016 The role of social-cognitive and emotional factors on testicular self-examination. Psycho-Oncology. Published online in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com)DOI: 10.1002/pon.4097