Testicular cancer screening: How and Why To Protect Yourself
Men: I am going to discuss something that may make you blush or get a little squeamish, but it’s important and you should take it seriously…the health of your testicles.
April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month—and I, for one, am glad that there’s a month devoted to this form of cancer. Even though it’s relatively rare, the number of cases has steadily risen over the last 40 years. No one knows exactly why, but one theory is that at least part of the reason has to do with the fact that our planet has become increasingly more polluted and our food more contaminated. This extreme toxic load puts a huge strain on our bodies and raises the risk of all types of cancer.
It is estimated that about 9,000 new cases of testicular cancer will be diagnosed this year. It occurs mainly in younger men under the age of 40. But still, roughly 7 percent of diagnoses are made in men ages 55 and older—so no man is off the hook.
Self-Awareness Is Key
Doctors urge women to do breast self-exams every month to become familiar with the unique texture and landscape of their breasts. But very rarely will you find doctors encouraging male patients to do the same with their testicles. It’s disheartening and, quite frankly, irresponsible.
Doing regular testicular self-exams is an important part of proactively managing your health. If you don’t take the health of your testicles in your own hands (literally!), no one else will. Here’s why…
Unlike women, who routinely receive clinical breast exams every year, most men don’t get testicular exams as part of their annual physical (unless it’s requested). Additionally, women have mammograms to screen for breast cancer and Pap tests to catch cervical cancer in its earliest stages. But there is no routine screening test for testicular cancer.
Furthermore, most testicular cancers are discovered by men themselves or their partners by accident or happenstance. Can you imagine one day coming across an irregularity and wondering how long it’s actually been there? It could have popped up only days ago…or it could have been there for years! It’s such a scary scenario.
As with all cancers, the earlier you detect testicular malignancies, the better your chances of successful treatment. The good news is, most testicular cancers can be cured, especially if found early. In fact, stage 1 testicular cancer (which is confined to the testicle) has a 99 percent survival rate. However, only 68 percent of men get diagnosed at stage 1! This is why it is so important to be familiar with your testicles and know what feels normal and abnormal.
How to Conduct a Testicular Self-Exam
With that said, let me tell you how to give yourself a testicular exam. It takes less than a minute of your time, I promise!
Choose one day every month to do your exam—like the first day of the month, or some other date you can easily remember. Also, do your exam after you’ve taken a warm bath or shower, when the skin of the scrotum is more relaxed.
First, stand in front of a mirror and scan your scrotum for any irregularities such as swelling, heaviness, or fluid retention. (Note: It is perfectly normal for one testicle to hang a little lower than the other.)
Next, examine both testicles at the same time by placing your index and middle fingers under, and your thumbs over, each testicle. Gently roll your testicles between your fingers to feel for anything unusual such as a lump, bump, or enlargement. (One testicle is usually a little larger than the other. This should not be cause for alarm.)
At the top and in back of each testicle, you’ll probably notice a cord-like structure called the epididymis, which stores and transports sperm. The first time you do a testicular self-exam, you may confuse it for a lump, but it’s not.
Also keep in mind that if you feel a sudden onset of fatigue and pain in the testicle, scrotum, groin, or low back that doesn’t go away after a couple weeks, go to your doctor to get it checked out. Pain is never normal.
Testicular Cancer Prevention
Most of the medical literature out there will claim that there’s nothing you can do to prevent testicular cancer. Whether that’s true or not, you do have the power to make your body inhospitable to cancer in general. This entails practicing all the lifestyle habits I preach on a regular basis:
- Eating a primarily organic, whole food diet that shuns all forms of sugar and trans fats;
- Exercising at least 30 minutes most days of the week;
- Eliminating as many toxins as possible through detox techniques: intermittent fasting, skin brushing, sweating it out in a sauna, or drinking detoxifying juices;
- Managing stress effectively;
- Reducing inflammation, a key driver in all types of cancer.
One of the best—if not the best—supplement to fight inflammation as well as cancer is curcumin. It can help the body destroy cancer cells and prevent normal cells from transforming into malignant cells. It also has been shown to halt the spread of cancer cells and prevent the development of additional blood supply necessary for tumor growth.
Intravenous curcumin is actually part of my protocol in treating patients with all types of cancer. But for general health and prevention, I recommend oral curcumin—500 mg up to three times daily. Look for curcumin supplements with a high curcumanoid concentration and enhanced bioavailability (better absorption into your body) using gamma cyclodextrin, an absorption enhancer made from potato starch.
I hope you take what you’ve read to heart. There’s no better advocate for your health, than you.