Self-Exams for Men (and Women)
Okay, we’re slightly nerdy.
Aside from being fans of thought-gems on TED.com you may have noticed on our other blog, MammographyKC.com that we’re also fans of Lifehacker. We can’t help it – there are thought-gems there too. Recently, they did a report on Three Self Exams Everyone Should Perform. Because early detection saves lives, and we as radiologists have the capacity to assist in early detection, we are great fans of self-exams.
But there’s so much to learn!
Self-exams put the power in your hands. You are the first line of defense when it comes to taking care of yourself, from eating right to exercise to noticing unusual changes in your body. But you have to pay attention! This is why we loved the article so much – it encourages you to pay attention.
We’ve written about breast self-exams on our MammographyKC blog (here) so today we’d like to use the Lifehacker article as a jumping-off point to talk about men’s health and the scrotal self-exam.
Men’s health is something we care about too.
The Lifehacker article gives good tips on how a man can perform his own scrotal self-exam. Knowing how to do it and what to look for are step one!
Testicular cancer is a leading cancer type in young men – and if found early, most testicular cancers respond well to treatment. Scrotal self-exam after puberty is one of the ways of finding scrotal changes that may be a sign of this cancer. Testicular cancer will often present as a firm or hard persistent lump in the testes.
If you find a scrotal lump on self-exam, step one is to get in to see you doctor. He will perform a careful physical exam and may also evaluate blood work. Depending on the results of those tests, you may be referred to a radiologist for a scrotal ultrasound.
Earlier on this blog, Dr. Sid Crawley talked about scrotal ultrasound and what to expect. It’s a non-invasive and relatively quick procedure. Besides masses or lumps what other symptoms may prompt a request for a scrotal ultrasound? Pain, feeling of heaviness/fullness, infertility and scrotal trauma are also reasons men may be referred for scrotal ultrasound. Remember any persistent scrotal changes should not be ignored!
What can we see on scrotal ultrasound?
Scrotal ultrasound examines the scrotum and contents including the two testicles, spermatic cords, and each epididymis. The exam evaluates for the presence or absence of masses within or outside the testes, infection, trauma, fluid accumulation (hydroceles) and testicular torsion (an abnormal twisting of the testes which causes blood circulation to be impeded and can lead to permanent damage or loss of the testes). The sonographic evaluation will help guide your clinician to the appropriate course of treatment.
Just as we talk about in the breast, all lumps are not cancers. Many benign cysts and other benign masses may feel like a lump or knot. The beauty of scrotal ultrasound is being able to examine right where you are having symptoms, and answering the question of what is this lump!
A quick word about scrotal trauma – many times, trauma to the scrotum prompts a first scrotal self-exam. If you feel a lump do not assume the lump must be from the trauma – one of the most common scenarios for finding testicular cancer is the patient who first feels a lump after an episode of trauma.
Take a breath.
Most often, the scrotal ultrasound will reveal benign, treatable conditions. A monthly scrotal self-exam is an excellent means of keeping aware of your body and finding changes early. So breathe easy and take care of yourself with a simple monthly self-exam.
Originally published 3/13/14 on diagnosticimagingcenterskc.com.