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Pregnancy tests used to detect some types of testicular cancer

A post that started as a joke on the social news site Reddit went viral in 2012 and is still doing the rounds, raising awareness on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Reddit of testicular cancer screening.

A reddit user posted a comic telling his story of using an old pregnancy test left in his medicine cabinet for kicks. His surprise at it coming back positive prompted him to post on the popular Reddit site, and it wasn’t long before a fellow ‘redditor’ weighed in saying, “If this is true, you should check yourself for testicular cancer. Seriously. Google it.” A couple of days later, a follow-up post revealed to the online community that the man had gone to the doctor and that indeed, a small testicular tumour had been found.

Pregnancy tests work by detecting a hormone called Beta-HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), produced by the cells of the placenta during pregnancy. Beta-HCG is also excreted by some forms of tumours, including some but not all testicular cancers.

Many healthcare professionals have spoken out stating that whilst the pregnancy test is effective for screening some forms of testicular cancer, it is only some, and that testicular cancer will first present itself as a lump, and that men should continue self-examinations as their first and most important way of detecting testicular cancer early.

Dr Ted Gansler said, “At the time of diagnosis, only a small minority of men with testicular cancer have HCG levels high enough to be detected by a home urine pregnancy test. Several non-cancerous conditions can cause false positive results. Current evidence does not indicate that screening the general population of men with a urine test for HCG (or with urine or blood tests for any other tumour marker) can find testicular cancer early enough to reduce testicular cancer death rates.

“In order to find testicular cancers at an early stage, doctors should include a testicular exam as part of a routine cancer-related check-up, and men should be aware of testicular cancer and see a doctor right away if they find a lump in a testicle.”

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