Yes guys, this one’s for you. To celebrate Orchid Male Health Awareness Week, we’ll soon have all you men out there loving your balls –
Wondering what we’re on about? We’ll keep this short and sweet.
If you’re a young male aged 15-45, you are at higher risk of testicular cancer – no matter how fit, strong and healthy you are. It’s one of the most common forms of cancer in your age-group, but get this – if you find the signs early and see the GP quickly, it’s 98% CURABLE! It can usually be cured even if it has already spread by the time of diagnosis.
How to check your balls
This is best done once a month after a warm bath or shower (as the testicles are more relaxed). Hold your scrotum in the palm of your hand and use your fingers and thumb to roll and examine all around each testicle. They should feel sensitive but not painful. For a picture demo click here or for a video demo click here (second item on dropdown menu, please be aware that this video contains images of male genitals).
Your balls produce male hormones and sperm. Often one testicle hangs a little lower than the other or one may be slightly larger than the other. Get to know what is normal for you. They should usually both feel smooth and firm, but not hard – so they should feel a bit like hard boiled eggs after the shell is taken off.
The most common symptom of a testicular cancer is a swelling or lump in a testicle which is new, has changed or is not present on the other side. The lump/swelling might any be any size, eg it may be painless and smaller than a pea, or it could be larger. It may grow slowly or quickly. Or it might be that your ball just doesn’t feel right to touch, has changed weight, or you might experience a dull ache or heaviness in the scrotum. More unusual symptoms include breast swelling/tenderness, coughing or back/tummy pain.
For anything unusual or if you have any concerns whatsoever, book in to see the doctor RIGHT AWAY. Most lumps aren’t cancer as testicles can also have cysts etc. However it could be cancer and so it MUST be checked out ASAP. By the way, forget about embarrassment or any worries about ‘bothering the doctor’…your GP examines men’s private parts day in day out – they’ve literally examined thousands of guys balls. They just want to check you’re ok and get you help if not. They would much rather see you quickly, even if it all turns out to be fine.
Are there any risk factors?
Approximately 2,200 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer in the UK each year and approximately 60 die of the disease per year.
The causes of testicular cancer are not yet known. The following factors may perhaps increase the chances of developing it, but it can happen to any male regardless of these additional risk factors: age (more common in ages 15-45), a family history of a father or brother with testicular cancer, having had an undescended testicle, having had cancer in your other testicle, a sedentary lifestyle, being white, being taller, regular smoking of marijuana, HIV positive individuals. Exercise may help protect against testicular cancer, however even very active individuals are still at risk.
So, what will the GP do?
If the GP thinks your testicle needs further investigation, they will refer you for a painless ultrasound scan and perhaps a blood test if required. If these tests show that cancer is very likely, you’ll need an operation to remove the testicle. You can often go home on the same day as the operation.
Removing one ball won’t affect your sex life, your ability to get an erection, or have children, as long as your other testicle is healthy. You’ll be able to return to your normal sex life once you’ve recovered from the operation. If your doctor has concerns that your fertility might be affected by the operation, they may offer you the chance to store your sperm (sperm banking) before the operation.
For some men, the operation might be the only treatment that is needed. The specialist consultant will discuss whether any further treatment is required (eg chemotherapy or radiotherapy) depending upon your individual situation.
At The Walcote Practice, our GPs are experienced in men’s health and are able to assist with any worries you may have. To book an appointment as soon as possible, please call 01962 828715.
For more information about male cancers or Orchid Male Cancer Awareness Week, please click here.