STONE: How a once month self-exam can save a life

Men, if you’re between the ages of 15 to 40, listen up. Often in the prime of their peak physical shape, men within this age group may often see themselves as being healthy and overall invincible. However, testicular cancer impacts nearly 9,000 men in the United States each year and it’s within the 15 to 44 year age group it hits the most.

Testicular cancer may be a touchy subject, but being touchy may help save your life. A simple self-examination can be the difference between treating a curable form of cancer versus waiting too long and running out of options. April marks Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, serving as an important reminder for men, of all ages, to address a delicate subject without fear of humiliation or embarrassment.

According to the Testicular Cancer Society, most testicular cancers are found by men themselves or by their partners, and very few are found by a physician. That alone highlights the importance of conducting regular Testicular Self-Exams (TSE for short). TSEs should be conducted at least monthly, are easy, and can be done just about anywhere. Broken down into three easy steps, there’s absolutely no reason why men shouldn’t be able do TSEs routinely.

Step No. 1 is doing a TSE after a warm bath or shower, when your scrotum is relaxed. If possible, stand in front of a mirror and check for any swelling on the scrotal sac.

Step No. 2 involves examining each testicle with both hands. Place your index and middle fingers under the testicle with the thumbs placed on top. Firmly, but gently, roll the testicle between your thumbs and fingers to feel for any irregularities on the surface or texture of the testicle.

Step No. 3 includes finding the epididymis…the epi-did-what? The epididymis is the soft, rope-like structure on the back of the testicle. If you are familiar with the structure, you won’t mistake it for a suspicious lump.

In the event you do see or feel anything that is abnormal or questionable, do see your doctor right away. It is important to note that not all lumps or irregularities are cancerous and you should not be too worried. However, it is important that your doctor examines and assesses what you’re seeing or feeling to make a final determination.

One thing is for certain … waiting will not make it go away and, in the possibility it is cancer, early treatment is key. Not that any cancer is good cancer, but testicular cancer … when caught early, has as high as a 95 percent to 99 percent, five-year survival rate. The “five-year” survival rate is a term used to tell what percent of people live at least five years after cancer is found. I don’t know about you, but 95 percent to 99 percent chance of living versus dying are odds I’ll take any day. Of course, these odds can go down the further it remains undiagnosed and untreated, but even then, testicular cancer has a higher cure rate than most other cancers. The point is, if you see or feel something off, don’t make excuses and go see your doctor!

Men are busy and often feel there’s not enough time to burden ourselves with so much touchy-feely stuff. Nonetheless, we find time for things important to us such as baseball, cars, man-caves, fermented beverages, and outdoor cooking apparatuses to name a few. The very organs that literally define us as men should be no exception.

Making more “you” time to squeeze (pun intended) in a TSE each month is as easy as loading an app on your phone. Yes, there is an app for that as well, a few of them actually. Pardon the bluntness of these apps, but for men, bluntness is best. Using your application download service, either through Apple or Android, apps such as “Ball Checker,” “Beasties With Testies,” or “OddBalls” are just a few of the many available for download. Each has a monthly reminder feature, as well as important, easy to understand educational points related to testicular cancer.

Additionally, there are many ways to support research and help draw awareness to this often discreet topic much like Tyler Austin, first baseman for the New York Yankees, has done. Austin himself is a testicular cancer survivor, having been diagnosed at the age of 17 and after a couple of surgeries became cancer free.

His collaboration, with the company Athletes Brand, is helping raise money for the Sean Kimerling Testicular Cancer Foundation to help prevent testicular cancer deaths, such as to what occurred to Sean Kimerling at the age of 37 for whom the namesake of the foundation is named after. This is one of many stories in which testicular cancer has impacted so many, and for so many greater awareness can help save lives.

Make it a priority to take a stand against testicular cancer by educating yourself, seeing your doctor regularly, and doing those TSE’s monthly!