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The Age to Talk About Testicular Cancer: It’s Earlier Than You Think

Adolescents are famous for taking long showers, but here’s a good reason to encourage your teenage son to stay in the shower a few extra minutes once a month: to perform a self-exam on his testicles.

Testicular cancer in teenagers is not unheard of. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2019, there will be 9,560 new testicular cancer diagnoses, with roughly 6 percent of cases occurring in children and teens (resulting in 410 deaths overall). The cancer is not common—affecting 1 in 250 men during their lifetime—and can be cured in nearly all cases when detected early.

That’s where the self-examination comes in.

Eric Klein, a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic, recommends self-exams for men between the ages of 15 and 35.

If your teen finds a lump, Klein advises following up with a doctor immediately.

“Usually we start with an ultrasound because there are other organs in the scrotum that can get lumps in them, and an ultrasound can confirm if the lump is something worrisome for cancer and embedded in the substance of the testis,” says Klein.

Discussing sexual organs with your teen can be awkward.

Grace A. talked about it with her son when he was 13. “It was part of the masturbation talk. I told my son that touching himself is normal and healthy and would let him get familiar with his body and what is normal, and if he ever felt anything funny that he could come tell me and we’d have a doctor check it out. I said, ‘I’d rather you be embarrassed for a few minutes than for something to be wrong and we ignored it.’”

Grace says her son didn’t make eye contact, but when he later felt pain in his penis, he told her. (It turned out to be a kidney stone.)

For those parents who don’t feel they can broach the subject, Klein suggests saying, “Here’s a website on testicular cancer; you need to know about this. Read about it, and if you have questions, let me know.”

How to Perform a Testicular Cancer Self-Examination:

  1. Perform it in the shower, when the skin on the testes relaxes.
  2. Gently roll each testicle between your thumb and fingers.
  3. Feel for hard or smooth round lumps.
  4. Watch for any change in the size or shape of the testicles over time.

For more information, visit cancer.org

Jaimie Seaton

Jaimie Seaton is a freelance writer and frequent Your Teen contributor.