Male reproductive health: Self exams and knowledge are the best prevention

Understanding common risks and the simple steps you can take to mitigate some preventable long-term health issues is easy, sensible, and smart. Yet millions of Americans ignore early warning signs and taking action early when it matters the most. These reactions are typical, especially when it comes to men’s health issues involving prostate and testicular cancer.

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Women with convenient or affordable access to health care resources are far more likely to get regular gynecological checkups that are effective in detecting ovarian cancer and other reproductive health concerns. Men, however, are an entirely different matter, often less informed, and less willing to take action or seek help until potential problems have progressed to more dangerous levels. This month, Healthy Connections will focus on prostate and testicular cancer awareness, to help men be better informed.

What men should know about prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in a man’s prostate — a small walnut-shaped gland that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Prostate cancer usually grows slowly and initially remains confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. While some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.

Prostate cancer that is detected early — when it’s still confined to the prostate gland — has a better chance of successful treatment. However, prostate cancer may not cause signs or symptoms in its early stages. Prostate cancer that is more advanced may cause signs and symptoms such as:

  • Trouble urinating
  • Decreased force in the stream of urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • Blood in the semen
  • General pain in the lower back, hips, or thighs
  • Discomfort in the pelvic area
  • Bone pain
  • Erectile dysfunction

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.

Testicular cancer awareness

Testicular cancer occurs in the testicles which produce male sex hormones and sperm for reproduction.

Compared with other types of cancer, testicular cancer is rare. But testicular cancer is the most common cancer in American males between the ages of 15 and 34.

Testicular cancer is highly treatable, even when cancer has spread beyond the testicle. Depending on the type and stage of testicular cancer, you may receive one of several treatments, or a combination. Regular testicular self-examinations can help identify growths early, when the chance for successful treatment of testicular cancer is highest.

Factors that may increase your risk of testicular cancer include:

An undescended testicle (cryptorchidism). The testicles form in the abdominal area during fetal development and usually descend into the scrotum before birth. Men who have a testicle that never descended are at greater risk of testicular cancer in either testicle than are men whose testicles descended normally. The risk remains even if the testicle has been surgically relocated to the scrotum. Still, the majority of men who develop testicular cancer don’t have a history of undescended testicles.

Abnormal testicle development. Conditions that cause testicles to develop abnormally may increase your risk of testicular cancer.

Family history. If family members have had testicular cancer, you may have an increased risk.

Age. Testicular cancer usually affects teens and younger men, particularly those between ages 15 and 34. However, it can occur at any age.

Race. Testicular cancer is more common in white men than in black men.

Most men discover testicular cancer themselves, either unintentionally or while doing a testicular self-examination to check for lumps. In other cases, your doctor may detect a lump during a routine physical exam. Learn how to conduct self-examinations, and talk with your physician if you have questions or concerns.

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Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!