Happy Movember everyone! It’s that time of year again – when guys start cultivating a dodgy ‘tache all in the name of charity.
I’ve been looking forward to this month for a long time. Not only because I’m a cold weather kinda gal, but most importantly, it’s a whole month officially dedicated to men’s health. And I love men! Many of my favourite people are men!
Anyway, this wasn’t supposed to be an open love letter to all the men in my life! I’ve got all of November to shower you with niceness. I actually had a serious point to make.
I, probably like many others, didn’t really fully understand what Movember was all about, apart from the stylish moo-stache thing. I knew it was to raise money for…men?… but I hadn’t considered where that money was going or what it was doing.
Turns out Movember is all about men’s health. Specifically mental health, suicide prevention, and testicular and prostate cancer. I talk about mental health and suicide prevention all the time, so I thought this was a great opportunity to tackle (Ha! See what I did there?!) the often taboo subject of men’s cancer. Specifically, I want to talk to you about your “downstairs gentleman’s areas”… (At this point I googled euphemisms for testicles because for once I have a genuine reason to…not that I do it all the time…just the normal amount of times that any human does… Anyway, ‘love spuds’!! Fantastic.).
Testicular cancer tends to affect teens and younger men, particularly those between 15 and 49. However, it can occur at any age. It’s more common in white males than in Asian or Black men. It’s one of the most treatable types of cancer, with 99% of men surviving a year or more after being diagnosed, and 98% surviving 5 years or more after diagnosis.
The most common type of testicular cancer is germ cell testicular cancer, accounting for 95% of all cases. Almost all men who are treated for testicular germ cell tumours are cured, and it’s rare for it to return more than five years later.
Typical symptoms are a painless lump or swelling in one of the testicles, or any change in shape or texture of the testicles. The swelling or lump can be about the size of a pea, but may be larger.
Testicular cancer can also cause other symptoms, including:
- an increase in the firmness of a testicle
- a difference in appearance between the testicles
- a dull ache or sharp pain in your testicles or scrotum, which may come and go
- a feeling of heaviness in your scrotum
Most lumps or swellings in the scrotum are not in the testicle and are not a sign of cancer, however, they should never be ignored.
So when should you see your GP? If you notice a swelling or lump or any other change in one of your love spuds, make an appointment! Lumps in the scrotum can appear for many reasons, and testicular cancer is rare. But for peace of mind, just get it checked out anyway. Your GP will examine you, and if they think the lump is in your testicle, they may consider cancer as a possible cause.
You’ll be asked about your symptoms and medical history, and you will have a physical examination. They may hold a small light or torch against your scrotum to see if light passes through it. Testicular lumps tend to be solid, meaning light is unable to pass through them. A collection of fluid in the scrotum, however, will allow light to pass through.
If you don’t feel comfortable visiting your GP, you can book an appointment at your local sexual health clinic. In Scotland, you can use the NHS inform online booking system. Alternatively, you can use Better2Know to find your nearest clinic (UK only).
Now, I just want to remind you that women have to go and get their lady parts checked out too. It’s not fun for us either. Not once have I been taken out for a romantic meal and wooed before being ordered to strip from the waist down, jump on the bed and expose myself, legs akimbo, and then be approached by a stranger brandishing a speculum that’s about to be inserted into me. But I do it anyway! Because early detection of cancer greatly increases the chances for successful treatment.
In short, give yourself a very special, very thorough fondling in the shower! You deserve it! (See below for a visual guide to checking yourself.)
Find out more about how you can get involved in supporting Movember here.
Find more info about lumps and swellings here.