How to Easily Check Your Testicles for Cancer in 30 Seconds
Movember was last month, and you know what that meant. No shaving for a full month! Well, that can be fun, but that’s not really the point. The unkempt beards are really intended to be a reminder to men to check on their health. Just like we wear pink in October to help encourage women to look for lumps on their lady parts, your Movember beard should have helped you find the motivation to check for some scary lumps on your own body. In all, Movember aims to help men avoid health problems from prostate cancer to suicide. Today, in particular, we’re going to discuss testicular cancer and how you can protect yourself (and your future children).
You’re right. It’s not fun to talk about cancer. Testicular cancer is even more unpleasant. That’s why we need to take it so seriously. The truth is that, for all of its horror, testicular cancer can be beaten (no pun intended). You’re not an idiot. You know where this conversation is headed. You need to be checked for signs: early and often. So, let’s all take a deep breath and get through this. It’s not as bad as you think.
The first thing you need to learn is that testicular cancer is extremely treatable. Of course, that requires that it be found to be treated in the first place. This brings us back to the self-examination. It’s an extremely low risk for anyone whose balls haven’t dropped yet. Conversely, the risk also drops to pretty much nil after the age of 40. That means you only need to be medically fondling yourself if you’re between the ages of 17 and 40. If you’re outside that range, it still doesn’t hurt to learn. You can teach someone else. Or, if you’re a particularly good friend, you might do the medical fondling for them.
Jokes aside, you want to get into this habit as soon as possible. Otherwise, you might not notice when something changes. You might like to think you know your balls like the back of your hand, but if you aren’t inspecting them, can you really compare the differences in shape and size between the two? Didn’t think so.
Now that you’re a believer, let’s learn about how you actually examine yourself. It might be an awkward conversation, but the practice is pretty painless and easy.
Step 1 - Take a Warm Shower
This isn’t vital, but it makes the process easier. First, you don’t want your balls to be particularly cold and shriveled. More importantly, you don’t want cold hands when you do this. A warm shower will relax the skin and make the sack a little less resistant to your inspection. It’s a small thing, but you can try it with and without the shower. Then you can comment below and tell everyone what you learned.
Step 2 - Touch Yourself
Throw on the Michael Jackson song if it helps. The technique is pretty intuitive. Get your penis out of the way and examine the testicles one at a time. You’re going to gently roll the ball between your thumb and fingers. You want to note the size and shape. In particular, you’re looking for lumps (much like a breast exam). The things we’re hoping not to find will be roughly the size of a pea. Obviously, lumps come in all shapes and sizes, but there’s only so much room on your balls for a growth. If you don’t find anything, great! You’re done! If you do, keep reading.
Step 3 - Calm Down
I know, I know. Finding a lump makes the blood drain from your face. You have a pit in your stomach and you’re on the verge of a full-blown, hyperventilating panic. Stop for a second. A lump is not the death sentence you’re imagining. In fact, there’s still a reasonable chance that what you found isn’t cancerous at all. Let’s talk about common mistakes.
First up is the semen pump (that’s not the medical term). This is a cord-like tissue on the back of each testicle. You wouldn’t be the first man to mistake it for a lump. It’s not. If you can’t distinguish what you felt from the pump, that’s probably all it is.
The second thing is to remember that even your own balls will vary in size and shape. It’s ok that they aren’t identical twins. They were never supposed to be. What you’re really looking for is changes in size and shape. The best way to do that is to document your exams and compare to last time’s notes. You’re not doing this every day; it’s easy to misremember which side was lumpier and which was a little bigger.
Step 4 - Get a Professional Opinion
Note that this doesn’t say to rush to the ER. Granted, if you noticed something clearly wrong, stop reading and get to the hospital! Otherwise, you can calmly schedule an appointment. You aren’t an expert, and it’s normal for guys to overreact and think they found a problem when they didn’t. The primary purpose of self-examination is to make sure obvious stuff doesn’t go unnoticed for years on end. That’s the real problem.
When you get to the doctor, he’ll probably want to fondle you a little himself (or herself). After that, they may schedule an ultrasound. This will more definitively help them look for any real trouble. Now, here’s the important part. Even if they give you the worst possible news, you’re still probably going to be fine. Testicular cancer is among the most treatable forms of cancer known to man. Keep reading. There’s tons of good news.
It’s your balls. Of course you’re concerned. Getting a few common questions out of the way should help you out a bit.
How Dangerous Is Testicular Cancer?
Ok. It’s cancer. Let’s now downplay things here. That said, it’s super treatable. Only about 1 in 263 guys ever actually come down with testicular cancer. Of those, only about 1 in 5,000 cases are fatal. In almost every fatal case, the problem was that the cancer was found too late for treatment. If you’re doing the exams, you’re avoiding that problem. If you are one of the unlucky few, try to remember that your worry is often a bigger health risk than the cancer itself. Heart disease and stress are bigger killers than testicular cancer.
How Do I Prevent It?
That’s great forward thinking. The bad news is that there are no real prevention methods. Testicular cancer is pretty much a matter of genetic lottery. There’s no food or exercise regime that will protect you. But, like you keep reading, if you find it, the doctors can take care of it.
How Often Should I Examine Myself?
Don’t let your paranoia (or perverse pleasure) get you to check your balls too often. An annual exam is fine. A lot of guys get checked during their yearly checkup. If you’re particularly worried, you can touch yourself twice a year and be fine. You don’t want to do extremely frequent exams because it will make it harder to notice changes. The idea is to be surprised that things are a little different on this exam. That’s the warning sign to go to a doctor.
Good work, gentlemen. You made it to the end. The self-exam is actually really easy. Chances are that you’re never going to find a problem, but don’t let that sap your motivation. We’re talking about tens of minutes per year. You can spare it. If you are unlucky, finding it early won’t just give you a much better chance to survive. It will also improve your chances of saving the boys and your ability to have accidental babies later in life.