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Is self-exam for testicular cancer really worthwhile?

It’s something which has been long debated by healthcare and testicular cancer experts, but the answer to whether it’s worthwhile for men to examine themselves for testicular cancer seems to depend on which expert you ask.

Testicular cancer regularly makes headlines for being the cancer which strikes young men in the prime of their life. The biggest key to beating testicular cancer for good is by detecting it early, and simple, easy testicular self-examinations can play a part in catching this disease in its earliest stages.


Testicular cancer usually affects men from the ages of 20 to 39, is the most common cancer in men between 15 and 34, and is generally very uncommon. The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a painless mass, or lump, in one testicle. Other symptoms to look out for include testicular discomfort, pain or swelling, any significant change in the size or ‘feel’ of the testicle, a sensation of heaviness in the scrotum, or a dull aching in the abdomen, back or groin.

An independent panel of experts has recommended against examining your testicles for abnormalities but a new study from the University of Kansas has found that men’s self-examination for testicular cancer is cost-effective and saves the healthcare industry millions.

Finding cancers early could save thousands of lives, and taxpayers money that would otherwise be spent on treating the advanced cancer after late diagnosis. When found early, testicular cancer can be treated and is usually cured. The risk of developing testicular cancer currently stands at 1 in 270, whilst the risk of dying from it is about 1 in 5,000.

Dr Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, is concerned that focusing on the self-examination itself is distracting attention away from cancer prevention. “If I gives advice about testicular cancer, I am diluting the advice I am giving about everything else [cancer related], so I am taking away advice about diet, exercise and not smoking. Whilst the study shows that the testicular self-exams may save money, it doesn’t necessarily show that it saves lives. However, if men do notice an abnormal mass, they should go and see a doctor”

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