It’s important to know how your body works, and be able to recognize when something isn’t quite right. If something changes or doesn’t seem quite right, get checked by a qualified healthcare provider.
The easiest and fastest way to recognize a problem is to perform monthly testicular exams. When you know what your body looks and feels like when it’s healthy, you’ll know it’s time to get checked if you detect any change at all.
Testicular cancer and hernias
Although rare, testicular cancer is the second most common cancer seen during the teen years.
Hernias, on the other hand, are quite common in teens. A hernia is simply a weakness in the abdominal wall. Sometimes a piece of intestine can become trapped in the scrotum, cutting off the blood supply to the intestine. It can cause serious problems if the situation isn’t quickly corrected.
Both conditions can produce lumps or bumps, which is why it’s important to perform testicular self-exams. If you notice anything unusual, get checked.
You don’t have to have a symptom to get checked. If you’re sexually active or even thinking about becoming sexually active, schedule a testicular exam with your health care provider. He or she will examine you to determine what “normal” is for you.
Once a baseline has been established, any changes in your body will be noticeable and easier to diagnose. If an abnormality exists, it can be treated. If a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is detected, it can be treated and prevented from spreading to others.
What to expect with a testicular exam
Many healthcare providers perform a testicular exam as part of a patient’s annual checkup. It’s quick and painless. Your doctor will look for lumps and bumps, swelling, hardening or enlargement of the testicles. And yes, the doctor will have to touch you “down there.” You may be embarrassed or even have an erection, but both responses are so common that healthcare providers are unfazed by either reaction. If it is your first exam, you may want to mention that; many doctors will explain things to you step-by-step, show you how to perform a self-exam and answer all your questions.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
If you are sexually active, you have to protect yourself from diseases and infections. Obviously, the best protection is abstinence, but if you are having sexual intercourse, use a condom every time.
Using a condom doesn’t mean you can forget about sexual health. You still need to be vigilant and consistent about self-exams. Remember, many sexually transmitted infections (STIs) don’t cause symptoms in women. By the time you notice a symptom, you may have already infected your partner(s).
If you notice a change to your genitals, such as:
- Sores, ulcers, blisters or warts
- A burning sensation when you pee
- A heavy feeling in the testicles
- Lumps or bumps
- Swelling, redness or a rash
- Itching or visible lice or eggs in the pubic hair
- Discharge from the penis other than semen and urine
Or if you notice a problem with the following:
- Unusual fever, fatigue, nausea
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
- Night sweats, diarrhea, weight loss, hair loss, increased susceptibility to infectious diseases
… get checked.
Having a symptom doesn’t mean you have a disease. The symptoms are so many and varied, it’s hard to tell if, for example, you have a raging case of jock itch or… scabies. Get checked anyway.
Each year, one of every four sexually active teens will get a sexually transmitted infection. By age 25, half of all youth will have acquired one or more infections.
Bottom line? Pay attention to your body and how it works. Make sure a qualified healthcare provider is tracking your reproductive health. If something changes or doesn’t seem quite right, get checked. Above all, respect your body by protecting it from infection, disease and neglect.