Self-exams are not just for women and their breasts. Familiarizing yourself with your self is one of the best ways not only to ensure that you are healthy, but also to catch any early signs of illness more promptly. This is why men also need to embrace the self-exam.
As you may or may not know, April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month. Testicular Cancer is not a very common cancer over all, but it is the most common cancer affecting men between the ages of 15 and 34, though it can develop in boys and men at any age. Unfortunately, there are no real preventative measures that can be taken to avoid developing the disease as the known risk factors are outside of our control. The risk factors include: a family history of the cancer; your age - 50% of cases develop between the ages of 20-34; your race - white men are more prone to testicular cancer; or if you have had an undescended testicle or abnormal testicle development. Luckily, even if you are high risk, the disease is very treatable; its survival rate is 95%. Also, 99% of the time the cancer only affects one testicle, and the undamaged one is capable of providing all needed male hormones for a normal life. Remember, the earlier the disease is caught, the better the chances of stopping its spread to other organs and recovering. So, how does one catch it early?
Annual physical exams and self-exams are the best ways to find testicular cancer. As per the Testicular Cancer Society, is recommended that this self-exam be done after a shower and in front of a mirror. Their directions are as follows: (http://www.testicularcancersociety.org/testicular-self-exam.html)
• A lump on the testicle
• Enlargement of the testicle
• Changes or irregularities in the testicle’s size or shape
• Pain or discomfort in the scrotum or testicles
• Aches or pressure in the lower abdomen or back
• Feelings of heaviness or fullness in the scrotum
• Enlargement of the breasts (due to increased estrogen levels)
Later stage symptoms may include:
• Significant weight loss
• Back or chest pain
• Coughing up blood
• Enlargement of the abdomen and/or neck lymph node
It should be noted that the most common symptoms can also be caused by non-cancerous conditions. If cancer is the cause, the early stages may present themselves painlessly, meaning physical discomfort does not always accompany the signs and symptoms. It is always best to see your doctor if one or more of these signs should develop.
So men, do not just shrug off the self-exam as something only women need to do. You too can benefit from knowing your own body.