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Men's Health

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Many Young Men Unaware of Importance of Testicular Exam


Patrick Walsh, MD, director of the Brody Urological Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, is not surprised about this general ignorance of the part of young men. "What 17-year-old athlete is thinking of cancer or illness?" he tells WebMD. "The only thing a 17-year-old male who has to have someone examine their testes is probably thinking is that it's strange."

The authors suggest other reasons for young mens' lack of knowledge. Mothers, who are often in charge of child rearing, have limited knowledge on male health issues. While there are many female issues discussed on talk shows and magazines, the media primarily focuses on athletic and technical issues for males. And finally, Nasrallah writes, "In our opinion the opportunity for educating the young male within the health care system does not exist."

According to many experts, yearly testicular exams to check for cancer are important even in young boys. Both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend annual exams for teen-age boys. In addition, the AMA's Department of Adolescent Health has published the Guidelines for Adolescent Preventive Services, which states that all adolescents aged 11 to 21 should have annual preventive service visits to address the physical and psychosocial aspects of adolescent health.

Preeti Matkins, MD, a pediatrician at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C., says that regular exams in adolescent boys are important but often forgotten. "Adolescents, like young adults, are generally healthy. So it takes some effort to make an appointment," he says. In addition, annual visits may also be hard because boys do not have the changes girls have, such as menstruation, to mark the beginning of adolescence.

And just as girls should be taught to perform periodic breast self-exams, boys should be taught how to perform testicular self-exams. "We teach boys to examine their testicles and make sure they don't have any lumps that may be a sign of cancer or something else that should be checked by a physician," Matkins says.

A self-examination is best done during or right after a shower or bath when the skin of the scrotum is relaxed. Each of the testicles should be held between the thumb and fingers of both hands and gently rolled to check for any abnormal lumps, which are usually painless and about the size of a pea.

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