Monday, 10 May 2010

Stay in the Game... Check Your Balls!

Testicular cancer accounts for a small % of all cancers in Canada- only 1.1% . However, in 2006, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported that steadily increasing rates were alarming; in the last 3 decades alone, incidence has increased by 59%. Testicular cancer is often referred to as a young man's disease and is currently the most common type of cancer, and leading cause of cancer death, in men in their 20s and 30s!

Because men in the at-risk age-group remain largely unaware of testicular cancer, its symptoms, the importance of TSE, and the role of early detection on survival rates, I developed a Social Marketing Campaign and Public Service Announcement (PSA) for an assignment. Thought I'd share my PSA with you (Thanks for your help guys!). (The website on the PSA doesn't really exist).

What causes testicular cancer?

It's not well understood what causes testicular cancer, but risk factors include a family history, cryptorchidism (undescended testicle), previous testicular cancer, age (15-49 years old), and race (incidence is 4 times higher in Caucasians than African American, for example). Nonetheless, many men will develop testicular cancer without any of these risk factors.

Testicular Self Exams (TSE)

Testicular cancer is one of the most curable types of cancer when detected before it has spread (the cure rate is 99%). So, testicular self examination (TSE) would be the obvious recommendation.


Recommending TSEs is still a bit controversial- critics state that population-wide recommendations shouldn't be made until it can be proven that TSE reduces mortality. Given the low incidence though, this is probably not possible.

Both the American Cancer Society and the Canadian Cancer Society suggest that early detection can improve treatment and recommend that TSE be part of regular routine medical exams. However, research shows that not all health care providers perform testicular exams, or even talk to their patients about performing TSE. Moreover, men tend to delay going to the doctor, possibly delaying early diagnosis. Half of testicular cancer patients are currently diagnosed in advanced stages.

Other critics state that recommending regular TSEs would lead to a number of false-positive results, resulting in patient anxiety. This, however, has been refuted, and TSEs have been reported to be highly effective and sensitive in cancer detection.

How to Perform a TSE

According to the Testicular Cancer Resource Centre, and the Sean Kimerling Testicular Cancer Foundation, self exams should ideally be done once a month, either in front of a mirror after a warm shower, or in the shower - the warm water relaxes the skin of the scrotum. The thorough exam should take about 3 minutes.

Gently examine each testicle with both han

Place your index and middle finger under the testicle with the thumb on top. Gently roll the testicle between your thumb and fingers. You shouldn't feel any pain. It's normal for one testicle to feel a bit larger than the other.

Find the epididymis, a soft, tube-like structure behind the testicle that collects and carries sperm- once you're familiar with this structure, you won't mistake it for a suspicious lump. Cancerous lumps are usually found on the sides of the testicle but can also show up on the front.

What to Look For

See a doctor as soon as possible if you:

Have any pain in your testicles or scrotum.
Detect any hard lumps, nodules (smooth rounded masses), or abnormalities
Notice any swelling
Detect a significant loss of size in one testicle
Detect a significant enlargement of a testicle
Feel a dull ache in your lower abdomen or groin
Feel heaviness in the scrotum
Notice collection of fluid in the scrotum
Have pain or discomfort of the breasts.

When in doubt, see a doctor.

For more information:

And for great PSAs!


Jme said...

Very original and brave!

Gina said...

NICE!!! Love it. Great message...or massage? haha

Anonymous said...

Great post! I think it is definitely something that we can bring more attention to.

Sybil Hebert, RD said...

Thanks guys!
Gina... you had to go there...:)