April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month. Although it comes but once a year, your testicles are constantly producing sperm to help you do that whenever you like. For men under 40, knowing how to check your nuts (or someone else’s) and doing so regularly can help identify anything unusual, ensuring you’re equipped to stay healthy.
Testicular cancer is the second most common cancer affecting men aged 18 to 39. It’s estimated that over 800 men will be diagnosed with this type of cancer this year in Australia by the end of 2018. In the vast majority of cases, the outlook is still positive with effective treatments and rates of survival above 95 per cent if discovered early.
Although there are no proven measures to prevent testicular cancer, reporting any unusual changes or discomfort in your balls to your GP can help ensure you get checked out by a specialist and receive appropriate treatment.
Nutting out the details
Your family jewels — anatomically referred to as ‘testes’ or ‘testicles’ — are busy boys in your body making 200 million sperm every day. They’re the male reproductive gland in all animals, including humans, and their function is to produce hormones such as testosterone, as well as sperm.
If you were born with goolies and still have them, you’ll find yours dangling inside your scrotum. They should be of similar shape and size — not dissimilar to large, whole walnuts. It’s often the case that one will hang lower in your nutsack than the other due to entirely normal anatomical differences — often the left one will droop lower than the right.
Some guys’ bollocks might be smaller, or larger than others. In most cases, this is pretty normal too. Having small testicles may be a sign of Klinefelter syndrome — a genetic condition affecting males. A medical device called an orchidometer can be used by a healthcare professional to measure the size of your swingers in case you’re concerned.
“Going for regular sexual health tests and frequently fondling your fruits are important risk mitigations for everyone.”
Ordinarily, your gonads are happy enough nestled between your legs doing their thing. In the case of testicular cancer, an abnormal growth or tumour can develop in one or both balls.
While there are no known links between testicular cancer and injury to your avocados (the common name for Australia’s favourite smashed, brunch time indulgence comes from the Aztec word for ‘testicle’), sporting strains, hot baths or wearing tight clothes, there are other factors that may contribute. Having had an undescended testicle during infancy or a family history of testicular cancer may increase the risk.
Some studies have shown that men living with HIV may be between 1.4 and 8.2 times more likely to develop testicular cancer than HIV negative men. Going for regular sexual health tests and frequently fondling your fruits are important risk mitigations for everyone.
Know thy nuts
Founded by two Aussie blokes over a quiet beer in Melbourne, the Movember Foundation is now recognised on a global scale. Its cause: Stop men dying too young.
In addition to prominently highlighting other men’s health issues, the Movember Foundation recognises that rates of testicular cancer have doubled over the last 50 years — and it’s not being talked about.
As part of their ongoing work to halve the number of men dying from testicular cancer by 2030, the first step on their plan of action is to help men know the signs, symptoms and risk factors.
They say: “The best thing you can do for your testicles is give them a bit of a feel on a regular basis, and if something doesn’t seem right, head to the doctor.” To help you get the lowdown on checking your own nuts (or someone else’s), they’ve produced a video and a handy visual guide for self-examination.
Movember Foundation | Know Thy Nuts
If you do happen to notice: a change in the shape or size of your nads, a lump that you don’t recall being there before; or if they just become painful to touch, make sure you see a doctor to get them professionally checked out. While there may be a temptation to worry, keep calm and see a GP for a proper check up.
Not all lumps and bumps are a sure sign of testicular cancer. Having a non-harmful epididymal cyst can be very common too. As always, if you do notice something, it’s best to get checked out by a doctor to be sure.
Treating your nuts
Treatment options for testicular cancer may vary depending on whether and how far the cancer might have spread. If the cancer is found only in the testicle and has not spread to lymph nodes in the abdomen or pelvis, treatment may involve an orchidectomy procedure — removal of one or both testicles. If the cancer has spread beyond the testicle, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy may also be considered.
In the case of testicle removal, prosthetic ball implants can be inserted. Importantly, losing a bollock or two shouldn’t alter your ability to have sex. Keeping one intact still enables the production of sperm.
For some guys, using erectile dysfunction medication may help gain or sustain an erection if problematic. Beyond sex being nice and pleasure being good for you, there are additional health benefits to climaxing too — shooting your load more often could reduce your risk of having prostate cancer.
“The best thing you can do for your testicles is give them a bit of a feel on a regular basis, and if something doesn’t seem right, head to the doctor.”
If you’re up for sharing the health benefits of sex with other guys, then don’t forget to use at least one HIV prevention strategy that works for you, as well as having regular sexual health check ups. With various options available, it’s easy to choose, use and combine strategies that involve PrEP, managing an undetectable viral load, or condoms. You can find organised information to help you understand and compare safe sex choices in Wanna compare tools? Here’s how safe sex choices measure up down under.