The Internet was abuzz this past week with a story that left many wondering if a new urban legend had been born.
Reddit contributor CappnPoopdeck posted a comic that made fun of a male friend who had urinated on an abandoned, unused pregnancy test only to get a positive reading. The jokey post resulted in several very serious cautionary responses that suggested the friend should be tested for testicular cancer. A follow up cartoon was posted explaining that their advice had been followed. The friend was tested and discovered he had a very small tumour.
Some Context for you…
After the story caught the attention of the media (causing CappnPoopdeck, reportedly a woman in Hamilton, ON, to delete her Reddit account) several doctors were able to confirm that yes, in fact, it is possible for pregnancy tests to identify a certain form of testicular cancer.
A pregnant woman produces beta human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). A simple, over-the-counter pregnancy test uses the presence of this hormone to determine when a woman is pregnant. There are few other conditions that produce this hormone, but a certain form of testicular cancer is one of them. And, because the test is so sensitive, it has the capacity to detect the cancer at a very early stage. The friend of CappnPoopdeck is lucky because early detection may mean the treatment is less dramatic – in other words, it may not have had a chance to spread and his testicle may be saved.
The type of tumour that may be detected by a pregnancy test forms in the Leydig cells and fall under the category of gonadal stromal tumours. This type of cancer may produce either excess male hormones or female hormones (hCG). Gonadal stromal tumours only account for 5% of all testicular cancers.
The best part of this story is the attention it has brought to testicular health. And with raised awareness comes action. Here’s what you can do (or what you can encourage the men in your life to do).
By all means, take a pregnancy test. But because more than 95% of testicular cancer is not going to be detected by this test, it’s important not to stop there.
Like women, men should be performing regular self-exams. Cancer.org offers up a step-by-step guide to the self-exam – although it’s not that tricky. If you do find a lump, don’t delay in getting to the doctor.
Aside from finding a lump, pay attention to the other symptoms of testicular cancer. If you’re experiencing swelling, pain or an aching feeling in the testes or lower abdomen, especially if it’s causing nausea or vomiting, it’s time to see a doctor. These symptoms could be caused by a variety of conditions, not just cancer, so a doctor should definitely hear about them.
Speaking of doctors, make sure to let your family doctor know if you had undescended testes earlier in life or if you have a family history. Many GPs will check for lumps if you fall into this higher risk category but don’t be afraid to ask for them to perform the exam once a year if you aren’t keeping up with your self-exams – especially if you are between 20 -34 as almost half of testicular cancer cases fall into this age range.
Testicular cancer is one of the most curable forms of cancer. When testicular cancer is caught at an early stage, before it’s able to spread beyond the testes, it has a 99% survival rate. So, be proactive about your scrotal health.
Do it for the boys.