April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month. Prior to being diagnosed, I had no idea that there was a specific month for a cancer that solely affects my sex. Testicular cancer is under-discussed
. Perhaps it’s an issue of visibility, since testicles are usually concealed (unless you’re on some beaches in France). On social media, #testicularcancer has roughly 30,000 posts, while other forms of cancer have over a million.
I’ve been running a testicular cancer awareness blog, A Ballsy Sense of Tumor
, with the explicit goal of changing the attitudes and beliefs of society towards talking about men’s health. Though I have written a piece about six common ways to bring up testicles in everyday conversation, still feel like society has a long way to go before testicular cancer is acceptable to openly discuss.
I have hope though, especially when I look at another cancer that is generally thought of as gender-specific - breast cancer. It wasn’t easy for breast cancer activists to raise the level of awareness that the disease has today. As recently as the 1950s, the New York Times refused to print articles that contained the word “breasts.” In the 1970s, Shirley Temple Black and First Lady Betty Ford publicly announced their diagnoses, which helped bring widespread attention and acceptance to this cancer. Nowadays, dozens of female celebrities speak out about their personal battles and many other sports teams, companies, and highly-visible corporations make a point to contribute to the discussion around breast cancer.
When it comes to testicular cancer, if you ask anyone to name a celebrity with a TC diagnosis, they will most likely respond with Lance Armstrong. However, this is changing. Recently, I’ve read stories of more athletes, celebrities, and even a YouTube personality who are sharing their testicular cancer battles. A step in the right direction.
I want to live in a world where we can freely talk about testicular self-exams. Best done during or after a shower when the scrotum is relaxed, a self-exam is a quick and effective way to catch testicular cancer early on. Just place your index and middle fingers under the testicle with your thumb on top. Firmly but gently, roll each testicle between your fingers. Any weird lumps or bumps should be checked out by a doctor ASAP. It takes longer to explain that than it does to actually complete one.
Not talking about self-exams (and following through with it) can be a potentially life-threatening mistake. Even making a phone call to a medical professional seemed like such an arduous task for me, although in all likelihood it saved my life.
How can we as a society overcome the stigma that surrounds testicular cancer? Having months like April designated as "awareness month" is helpful, but awareness can’t be something that only happens for one month out of the year
. I found a lump in October and was diagnosed in November. April is a long way off from those months. Discussions about self-checks need to happen more frequently.
I am now aware because I had to be: testicular cancer is a part of my life, like it or not. But what about those men from 15-35 who are highly susceptible to testicular cancer? Like me, the average guy doesn’t know about the importance of regular self checks until it’s too late, and I know this is because of the sad truth that people don’t want to talk about their testicles. Testicular cancer is highly treatable, especially in its early stages, but that does no good if men simply aren’t aware of their own risk. We can’t let these conversations about testicular health, no matter how awkward they might be, get brushed aside because society feels uncomfortable discussing testicles.
I don’t have all the answers, but I know testicular cancer awareness and open discussions about men’s health is a mission that needs to be important to all people. Simply put, testicular cancer does affect everyone, not just men. It affects anyone who has a father, a brother, a husband, a son, or a male friend.
Will you help me get the ball rolling and shed some light where the sun don’t shine?
What's your experience with Testicular cancer awareness? Share in the comments below.
Image courtesy of Author.