Failing to Do this Exam Risks Death
Do you know the most common type of cancer among some groups of men? It’s testicular cancer. And it’s on the rise. Rates of this insidious disease have risen a whopping 67 percent between 1973 and 1999, and are still climbing. And although it is still more common among younger men than older men, it has also been showing up more frequently in older men as well.
So what can you do to protect yourself? Read on and I’ll show you what to watch for and how to check for the presence of this painless threat.
What Exactly is Testicular Cancer?
This is a cancer that forms inside the testicles, which are the glands inside your scrotum that produce male hormones and sperm. It tends to strike younger men, but we should all be aware of it and know what to look for.
There are two main kinds of testicular cancer:
- Seminomas: These are cancers that grow slowly and respond well to therapy, including radiation.
- Nonseminomas: This is a different type of cancer cell that grows faster than seminomas.
The number one symptom of testicular cancer is a painless lump in the testicle. Another symptom can be a somewhat enlarged testicle. You should familiarize yourself with the feeling, size, and shape of your testicles so you’ll know if any changes occur.
Other symptoms include a dull ache in the groin area or lower stomach. You may also experience swelling or a feeling of heaviness in your scrotum. Be on the lookout for any traces of blood in your urine, as this may indicate a problem. Make sure you tell your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
A simple TSE (testicular self-exam) will increase the likelihood of the early discovery of a tumor or other problem. I’ve outlined the procedure for performing a TSE below.
What Are the Risk Factors?
You’re at increased risk of testicular cancer if you are linked to any of the following:
DES exposure. Any male who was born of a mother taking DES (Diethylstibestrol) is at risk of developing testicular cancer. I am providing a more complete explanation of DES in the next section.
Genetic link. You are also at risk if you have a family history of testicular cancer. If your grandfather, or especially your father, suffered from this cancer it could be problematic for you.
Undescended testicles. If you have one or both testicles that are undescended, you are at risk. This disorder is also associated with exposure to DES.
Caucasian male. If you are a Caucasian male, you are 5 times more likely to get testicular cancer than non-Caucasian males. Doctors and researchers are still not sure why this is the case.
Injured testicles. If you have badly injured your testicles in some way you may be at higher risk for developing testicular cancer.
DES – The Synthetic Estrogen that Causes Testicular Cancer
DES is a synthetic estrogen that was created to supplement a woman’s natural production of estrogen. It was originally developed to help prevent miscarriages and was initially considered safe. Between five and ten million women were prescribed DES before 1971.
In 1971 the FDA finally issued a warning telling doctors to stop prescribing the drug. They did this because a study found it was responsible for causing a rare vaginal cancer in females exposed to DES.
Although DES has not been prescribed in more than 40 years, the effects are still seen today. Men born of mothers taking DES have a risk of both testicular and prostate cancer.
Recently, third generation children have been studied. Findings show that grandsons have an increased risk of a defect in the urethral tube in the penis.
One problem is most women never knew they were getting this synthetic estrogen. DES was sold under 75 different trade names.
If your mother was taking this poison when she was pregnant with you, you are at risk for testicular cancer. You are also at risk if either parent was exposed. You may possibly be at risk if your grandparents took or were exposed to DES.
The Testicular Self-Exam
It turns out that a testicular self-exam is easy to perform. I suggest that men of all ages perform this exam once a month. I especially encourage men under the age of 40 to make this exam a part of their shower or bath routine at least every few weeks.
First step. Examine each testicle in the same way. Place your thumb on top of your testicle and your index and middle fingers underneath. Then roll the testicle between your fingers and thumb. One testicle is probably larger than the other, which is completely normal.
Second step. Feel for lumps. You are feeling for anything odd, in particular, an abnormal lump. The lump will probably be about pea sized, and may appear on the sides or front of the testicle.
Third step. If you do happen to find a lump, or if you found something you’re not sure about, contact your family doctor immediately. It’s possible the lump may be caused by an infection. Your doctor will be able to confirm the cause of the lump.
The Ball Is in Your Court
Keep in mind that cure rates for testicular cancer are quite high. If you have caught it early, you are likely going to be fine. In fact, Lance Armstrong had testicular cancer and went on to win the Tour de France several times.
The critical point to stress here is that you should perform the self-exam on a regular basis. By doing so you are very likely going to catch the cancer before it has a chance to become life threatening.
The biggest danger in not doing the self-exam is the fact that this cancer is completely painless until it has become quite serious. If you’re waiting until you feel pain or discomfort before you examine yourself, you may be too late.