Thursday, September 23, 2010

Public Service Announcement: Play With Your Balls (seriously, do it.)

Brad, Shane & Matt in Concorde cockpitThis post is meant to both be informative, but also a reality check for all of the boys and men that check in with me.

Today, I found out that my brother’s best friend, Shane Mooney, died this week from testicular cancer.  He was 28. 

I don’t know the details, other than the fact that only three weeks prior, he had been diagnosed and it took his life quickly.  The picture to the right, from left to right, is me, Shane, and my brother Matt.  We were in the cockpit of Concorde back when it used to fly IAD-DFW.  (I don’t have other current pictures with permission to use.)

I know my mom taught my brother and I to check ourselves monthly, but, like most boys, we tend to have our hand in our pants more often than that.  Testicular cancer is very curable (and I’m not saying Shane did anything wrong,) but you need to check yourself, much like a woman checks herself monthly for lumps in her breast.

Below, I have posted some text from the Testicular Cancer Resource Center and how to properly perform a self-exam.  I urge you to follow it.

The testicular self exam is best performed after a warm bath or shower.
(Heat relaxes the scrotum, making it easier to spot anything abnormal)

Here is how to do the self exam:

  • If possible, stand in front of a mirror. Check for any swelling on the scrotal skin.
  • Examine each testicle with both hands. Place the index and middle fingers under the testicle with the thumbs placed on top. Roll the testicle gently between the thumbs and fingers -- you shouldn't feel any pain when doing the exam. Don't be alarmed if one testicle seems slightly larger than the other, that's normal.
  • Find the epididymis, the soft, tubelike structure behind the testicle that collects and carries sperm. If you are familiar with this structure, you won't mistake it for a suspicious lump. Cancerous lumps usually are found on the sides of the testicle but can also show up on the front. Lumps on or attached to the epididymis are not cancerous.
  • If you find a lump on your testicle or any of the other signs of testicular cancer listed below, see a doctor, preferably a urologist, right away. The abnormality may not be cancer, but if it is testicular cancer, it will spread if it is not stopped by treatment. Even if it is something else like an infection, you are still going to need to see a doctor. Waiting and hoping will not fix anything. Please note that free floating lumps in the scrotum that are not attached in any way to a testicle are not testicular cancer. When in doubt, get it checked out - if only for peace of mind!

Other signs of testicular cancer to keep in mind are:

  • Any enlargement of a testicle
  • A significant loss of size in one of the testicles
  • A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
  • A dull ache in the lower abdomen or in the groin
  • A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
  • Pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum
  • Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts

I hesitate to mention the following list, since anything out of the ordinary down there should prompt a visit to the doctor, but you should be aware that the following symptoms are not normally signs of testicular cancer:

  • A pimple, ingrown hair or rash on the scrotal skin
  • A free floating lump in the scrotum, seemingly not attached to anything
  • A lump on the epidiymis or tubes coming from the testicle that kind of feels like a third testicle
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Blood in the urine or semen

*** Remember, only a physician can make a positive diagnosis ***

For that matter, only a physician can make a negative diagnosis too. If you think something feels strange, go see the doctor!

Finally, embarrassment is a poor excuse for not having any problem examined by a doctor. If you think there is something wrong or something has changed, please see your doctor!

Rest in peace, Shane.  You were too young to check-out so soon.

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