Last year I found a lump and I thought I'd share my experience in the hope that it helps other men. The story does have a happy ending, and I have a challenge for you to complete.
Late last year I started feeling sore on the right side of the scrotum, and so I checked for lumps using a technique called Testicular Self Examination, or TSE. This is not something I have done often, usually only when reminded of it after hearing or reading something about it in the press.
I found several lumps, one about twice the size of a pea. I booked to see the doctor immediately.
The visit was fairly routine. He examined both testicles, carefully as I was in much pain. His initial diagnosis was an infection of the didymus. This is the small tube that transports sperm manufactured in the testicle to inside the body.
He prescribed some fairly strong antibiotics to settle things down, and said I should book for an ultrasound when I got back from holiday.
My main concern was the time-frame. The doctor assured my that if it was cancer - and he was fairly sure at this point that it was not - that a few weeks would not have a negative impact
When I got back from leave I dutifully went and got the ultrasound. The technician told me quite quickly that she could find no lumps at all on either testicle, but did confirm very small remains from the infection.
The doctor called me to confirm the result that day, and said if I have further issues come right back.
What did I learn from this?
Firstly, don't panic. All lumps are not cancer. If they are, you have about a 98% chance of survival if they are caught early. They key word here is early.
You are you own first line of defence.
Secondly, get over any embarrassment.
You will do TSE in private - no one will know you do it unless you blog about it. I think we are past that sort of thing now, aren't we?
Doctors look at body parts all day. They know how to handle patients who may be stressed and/or embarrassed. Get over it.
A special note on having an ultrasound exam. The process was discreet and respectful. Each step was explained before it happened and only the area to be examined is visible. There is no physical contact between you and the technician and it does not hurt.
My challenge to you is this: start TSE today, and do it regularly.
It is vital that you learn what your testicles normally feel like. I'd suggest doing it once a week for a couple of months until you get used it. If I had been doing that already, I don't think this would have been as stressful.
When you find anything of concern get it checked by a doctor as soon as practicable.
If you do take this challenge up, please mention it on social media, link back here and challenge others to do the same.
Can partners help? Yes, you can. If you are woman, perhaps get your man to start when you have your next smear, or you can make breast self exams and TSE something you do together. Guy partners? You are not exempt!
Please, encourage your man to take the challenge today, and stick to it.
How to do testicular self examination.
And another with links to resources.
The NZ Testicular Cancer Website