Movember moustaches, campaigns and initiatives in support of raising the awareness of men’s health issues is a great opportunity to talk with your son about the warning signs of testicular cancer. It may not be a topic that you are comfortable with but it is a necessary one.
Testicular cancer is the leading cancer in men ages 15 to 44 with an estimated 1,150 Canadian men being diagnosed with it in 2019.
Who is at Risk?
Factors that can increase a man’s risk for testicular cancer include:
- An undescended testicle (cryptorchidism). A man who has a testicle that hasn’t descended is at a greater risk of testicular cancer than are men whose testicles have descended normally. The risk remains elevated even if the testicle has been surgically relocated to the scrotum
- If a family member has had testicular cancer, then there is an increased risk for related males
- Abnormal testicle development. Conditions that cause testicles to develop abnormally may increase risk of testicular cancer
- Although it can occur at any age, testicular cancer affects teens and younger men, particularly those between ages 15 and 44.
- Testicular cancer is more common in white men than in black men
Important Things to Say
It is important to stress to your son that this cancer is not common and if found early is curable.
Let him know that he can come to you if he notices any changes or has any concerns or questions.
As your son reaches puberty and his body begins to change, encourage him to become familiar with his testicles. Often testicles are not symmetrical. He can only know if there is change if he knows what is his normal.
It is also important to teach your son how to perform a monthly self-exam so that he can monitor any changes that may have occurred in a testicle.
How to Perform a Monthly Testicle Self-Examinations
Have your son:
- Stand in a hot shower, allowing his testicles to descend
- Hold his penis out of the way and examine the skin of the scrotum
- Examine each testicle. Using both hands, have him place his index and middle fingers under the testicle and his thumbs on top
- Gently roll the testicle between your thumbs and fingers
A healthy testicle will have a soft, squishy consistency throughout.
Signs of irregularity can include hard lumps, changes in the size, shape or consistency of the testicle, tenderness or pain.
The anatomy of the testicle includes a structure called the Epididymis that your son will also need to become familiar with. It is a cordlike structure running along back of the testis. It provides for the storage, transport and maturation of sperm.
Self-care is a key piece for your son’s health. By talking to your son about testicular cancer you equip him with tools for self management and help him to understand that ultimately he is responsible for his own health.