Welcome to my June Newsletter!
Summer is finally here! I trust that you are maximizing your time outdoors and appreciating the wonderful weather.
We are continuing our focus on health issues that affect men. My feature article is on testicular cancer. We will look at ways to increase early detection of this type of cancer as recommended by health care professionals. This week’s question asks why there is a natural difference in position and size between most men’s testes.
Please note: Starting in July, I will be sending my newsletter once a month. The next issue will come out on August 1st. This schedule will give more time to my subscribers to read my articles and give me an opportunity to create other products for my readers.
A Touchy Testicular Problem
It’s a topic that makes most men reach down with protective hands to cover their private parts. The thought that their “family jewels” could be harmed in any way is too disturbing for most males. However, testicular cancer is the most common type of cancer in young men aged 15-35. When in 1996, the famous American cyclist Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer, it was clear that even the very mentally and physically fit are vulnerable to this disease.
The word “testicle” derives from the Latin word testiculus which means “witness of virility”. Testicles hang in a sac of skin and muscle called scrotum (see diagram below). The average testicular volume is 18 cm³ for an adult male. Testicles work best when their temperature (36.8 degrees Celsius) is slightly lower than the body (37 degrees Celsius). This organ has two functions: 1) production of sperm and 2) production of male sex hormones (i.e. testosterone).
Cancer develops when normal cells multiply uncontrollably. The cell’s control mechanism found in the DNA is defective and damage is done to the surrounding tissues as the cancer grows. Testicular cancer begins to form in “germ” cells where sperm is produced. There are two types of germ cell tumours : seminomas and non-seminomas. These types of tumours have their own growth pattern and are treated differently.
During the course of his life, a man’s risk of developing this type of disease is about 1 in 300 in Canada. In the past 30 years, the rate of testicular cancer has increased by 60% in Ontario. The population most at risk are men in their mid-twenties.
There are some theories regarding the vulnerability of young men to testicular cancer. According to Dr. Laurence Klotz, a leading Canadian authority in this field, testicular cancer may start in the foetus. When male sex organs are formed, if there were any mild hormonal disruptions, the testicular cells can be malformed. When boys hit puberty, and these testicle cells grow rapidly, they can become cancerous.
The causes of testicular cancer are still not clear. However, there are known risk factors such as: 1) delayed descent of the testicles (must be corrected early); 2) age – men between the ages of 15-35 years old; 3) family or personal history of this type of cancer and 4) abnormal development of the testes.
The signs and symptoms associated with testicular cancer are: 1) a painless lump on the testicle; 2) a feeling of heaviness in the lower abdomen or scrotum; 3) a mild pain in the lower abdomen and groin area and 4) a significantly larger testicle compared to the other.
Early detection is key to successful treat testicular cancer. This type of cancer has a 90% overall cure rate, and if it has not spread to other organs, it is 100% curable. Treatment often involves surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Since most cancers only affect one testicle, men’s fertility is preserved or sperm can be banked if fertility is a concern.
Thanks to public figures such as Lance Armstrong, testicular cancer is becoming a more known disease. Education is the key to keeping the “family jewels” where they belong.
|Until the next issue,
Here are tips for more effective self-examinations of the testicles:
- Start self-examination at puberty: testicular cancer is more prevalent in males 15-35 years old.
- Examine testicles once a month: regular check ups can detect small changes in the testes. The examination only takes 1 minute.
- Get used to the “normal” feel and size of the testicles: look for a change in size, feel or texture of the testicles.
- Do the examination in a warm shower or bath: since the scrotum is a muscle, it will relax and allow for the testicles to move more freely. Also, the body pushes the testicles away from itself when the body is too warm.
- Use wet fingers and a gentle touch: wet fingers that use a gentler touch can detect more subtle differences on the testes’ surface.
- Use the thumb and the index of 1 hand: one hand has to hold the penis up the other one does the self-examination.
- If any abnormality is noted, see a doctor as soon as possible: early detection can prevent infertility or death.
|Truth in Motion
|You Wanted to Know...
Why most men’s left testicle is bigger and lower than the right one?
About 65% of men have a bigger and lower left testicle compared to their right one.
The left testicle is designed to work harder than the right one. In order to produce more sperm and testosterone, the left testicle mass is greater.
The spermatic vein that is attached to the left testicle is much longer and drains into the renal vein (veins bring blood that is low in oxygen back to the heart). The right testicle’s vein is shorter and drains into the inferior vena cava. Therefore, the left testicle hangs lower than the right one.
|Now For Something Completely Different
|Sound travels 343 meters/second in air, but travels about 4.3 times faster in water (1482 meters/second).
Canadian Cancer Society – Testicular Cancer
Testicular Cancer in Canada
Testicular Cancer Info: Staging
Understanding Testicular Cancer
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