When was the last time you felt your testicles?

Yes, it’s a serious question. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men aged 15 to 35 and can affect men of any age. Yet most men don’t know how to perform or don’t prioritize regular self-checks.

The reasons to make self-checks a priority are many, but most importantly, testicular cancer is one of the most treatable cancers—when caught early.

How, when, and where to conduct self-checks

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Self-checking for testicular cancer is a simple step to add to your routine. The ideal time to do a self-check is during or after a warm shower or bath. When the scrotum is relaxed, identifying anything outside the norm is easier. Aim to perform this exam monthly to ensure you notice any changes as soon as possible.

Get to know your body

Before diving into a self-check, you need to know what’s normal for you. Testicles can vary significantly, from grape to small egg-sized, and it’s common for one to be slightly larger. Familiarizing yourself with the feel of your testicles, including the coiled tube at the back of each (also known as the epididymis), is essential for recognizing if something has changed.

The right technique

A self-exam follows 2 simple steps: 

  1. Stand in front of a mirror to check for any visible swelling on the scrotal skin. 
  2. Gently roll each testicle between your thumb and fingers, feeling for any lumps, changes in size, or irregular textures. 

And that’s it, you’ve completed a testicle self-exam! If you end up feeling or seeing something that doesn’t seem right, don’t panic. The goal of a self-check is to be familiar with what’s going on below your belt so you can seek professional advice if something feels off.

Sam Corbett’s testicular cancer journey

In 2023, Sam Corbett, the drummer for the Canadian rock band The Sheepdogs, shared his experience with testicular cancer on the Don’t Change Much Podcast. Sam experienced no symptoms—a common experience. He acted quickly, knowing there was no downside to following up and getting checked.

Prioritized taking action

At 34, Sam’s career and family life were at all-time highs. His band had recently released a new album and was in the middle of a tour, and his wife was pregnant with their first child. One day, in the shower, Sam felt a lump and decided to get it checked.

The doctors quickly determined that it was testicular cancer and recommended surgery and, later, radiation therapy. Sam and his band prioritized his treatment and cancelled several shows so he could get the care and recovery time he needed.

Sam can officially be counted as among the 97% testicular cancer survival rates. And that’s all thanks to a self-check routine and his decision not to delay seeking medical advice.

The power of honest conversations

Sam’s treatment and recovery didn’t take place exclusively in a hospital. His honest conversations with his wife and band played a critical role in allowing him the time he needed to prioritize his health.

It’s not always easy sharing personal information about yourself, especially a difficult diagnosis. However, doing so allowed Sam the opportunity to reflect with his wife on the importance of their family and to set new lifestyle routines with his band while touring. For example, Sam prioritizes a healthier diet and meditation whenever possible. Also, he now drinks non-alcoholic beer, as alcohol is linked to higher risks of cancer

Recognizing the signs and symptoms

Testicular cancer often does not cause any symptoms—yet another reason why monthly self-checks are so important. If symptoms do show up, they will likely include:

  • A change in the size, shape or firmness of one or both testes
  • A painless lump in the testicle
  • A dull pressure, pain or discomfort in the lower back, belly, or groin
  • A heavy feeling in the scrotum
  • A build-up of fluid or swelling in the scrotum

If the cancer is more advanced, it can cause abdominal swelling, persistent dull aches in the abdomen or groin, pain in the back, or swelling of the breast tissue.

Understanding and minimizing risk

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While some risk factors for testicular cancer, such as family history and ethnicity, can’t be helped, making healthier lifestyle choices can help to reduce your risk:

  • Choose veggies and fruit over salty or sugary snacks
  • Quit smoking
  • Plan at least 2 alcohol-free days each week
  • Get regular physical activity
  • Swap red meat for lean proteins like fish, lentils, or chickpeas

There is no proven way to prevent testicular cancer, but starting with 1 or 2 of these tips and gradually adding more will have positive ripple effects on many aspects of your health.

Your health is in your hands

Testicular cancer is a highly treatable disease, especially when caught early. Most importantly, if you notice something or are concerned, there is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Knowing your risk, performing a simple self-check regularly, and being open with friends, family, and medical professionals about any health worries can help men in Canada live longer, healthier lives.

What are your routines for minimizing your health risks? Let us know in the comments below.

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