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Testicular Cancer Awareness Month: Self-Exams Can Save Lives

April 02, 2020 | By: Dr. Aaron Bey

Some Testicular Cancer Numbers Can Be Surprising

Testicular cancer is not a common disease, and it has some
uncommon traits when it comes to those who contract and survive the illness.

First, testicular cancer tends to strike early. The average
age of diagnosis is 33, so young men are strongly encouraged to self-examine
once a month.

Second, while just one-fourth of African American men develop
the disease compared with Caucasian men, their survival rate is lower. Researchers
believe this is due to late detection.

This outcome can easily be changed, so let’s make that change in April, which is both Testicular Cancer Awareness Month and National Minority Health Month.

The odds are in our favor: Just one in 250 men develop
testicular cancer, and the overall lifetime risk of dying is just one in 5,000,
according to the American Cancer Society. In 2020, those figures translate to 9,610
predicted cases and about 440 deaths.

The Key to Prevention is Regular Self-Exams

Testicular cancer occurs when cells in the testes begin to grow out of control. The testes, located in the scrotum, are part of the male reproductive system that produces and stores semen as well as the hormone testosterone.

Regular self-exams can help men to recognize if something
has changed. And it’s pretty easy.

How to Self-Exam the Testicles

Create a baseline. In the first exam, the patient should
familiarize himself with the lay of the land, so to speak. Be aware that each
testicle includes a small coiled tube on the upper or middle outer side, as
well as blood vessels and tubes that carry sperm. These are normal.

Roll call. It’s recommended to perform the self-exam in the
shower or bath, when the scrotum’s skin is relaxed. We suggest adding a note to
your monthly calendar as a reminder it’s time for a testicular self-exam. To
self-exam, the patient will hold each testicle separately between the thumbs
and forefingers of both hands and roll it gently. He should feel for hard lumps
or rounded masses, as well as changes in shape or size.

Take notes. If there is anything worth noting, the patient
should add it to a self-exam journal that can be referenced before and after
the next exam. If there is a change in size and/or shape of one or both testes,
he should contact a urologist.

Other symptoms of testicular cancer include pain in one or
both testicles, a heavy feeling in the scrotum and dull pain or pressure in the
belly, groin or lower back.

What to Do if Something Feels Abnormal

If these symptoms occur, or the testicles have changed, call
a urologist for an examination.

Most men diagnosed with testicular cancer have the affected
testicle removed, so the physician can examine the tissue and identify the type
of cancer cells. Post-surgery treatments can range from surveillance in early-stage
cancer, to chemotherapy for more advanced cases. Radiation therapy and lymph
node removal may also be recommended.

If testicular cancer is detected early, it is highly treatable. Awareness is essential to detection, and lowering those surprising numbers. So spread the word, during Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, and put a note on the calendar every month as a reminder to self-exam.

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