Jennifer Gómez never forgot about her high school boyfriend after graduation. He haunted her in nightmares even after she moved away and changed her name. She says she would wake up with the memory of the abuse he inflicted on her fresh on her mind.
A few years later, he tracked her down online. “We had a phone conversation," Gomez says. "He hadn’t realized, for all these years, everything he’d done to me. He was living with the memory of the ideal us, how much he loved me. He didn’t have the realization...
But there is something you can do to protect yourself. It's called a testicle self-exam.
If you do one every month, your chances of finding cancer early are very good. When that happens, the cancer is a lot easier to treat. That means your chances of survival are very good.
What Is Testicular Cancer?
Your testicles, what you more likely call balls, are part of the male reproductive system. They are the two balls that hang in the sac, known as the scrotum, under your penis.
The testicles are the part of your body that produce sperm. They also produce a male hormone called testosterone that gives your body many of its male characteristics -- like a deep voice or hair on the face.
With testicular cancer, abnormal cells in the testicles divide uncontrollably and form a cancerous tumor. If the cancer isn't treated, those cells can break off and spread to other parts of the body.
Testicular cancer is not particularly common. There are about 8,300 new cases a year. And about 350 men die each year from this cancer. But while some men are more likely to get it than others, it's possible for any young man to get the disease.
Why You Should Consider Giving Yourself a Self-Exam Each Month
Unless you have certain risk factors, such as a brother or father who has or had testicular cancer, the American Cancer Society (ACS) says there aren't enough studies to make monthly exams a recommendation.
But because the cancer is so easy to treat when found early, even the ACS says many doctors recommend the exam. And besides finding cancer early, the exam can help you find other problems that may need to be treated.
Doing the Monthly Exam
Doctors recommend that boys start doing monthly exams around age 14. At this age, it's unlikely you will find anything to be concerned about. However, a self-exam will give you the chance to get to know your body so that you can detect changes more easily in the future.
The best time to do an exam is right after a shower or bath. That's when the skin of the scrotum will be most relaxed and the exam will be easier to do.
You should do the exam standing in front of a mirror. If you are nervous about touching yourself, don't be. This is how you get to know what your testicles and scrotum should feel like.
Start by standing in front of the mirror and check for any swelling in the scrotum. Cup the scrotum in one hand to see if it feels normal.
Hold your penis out of the way and examine one testicle at a time.
Roll the testicle gently between the fingers and thumb. You should not feel any pain.
The testicle may be about the size of a golf ball, and it should feel smooth.
Feel for any bumps or changes in size or consistency.
After checking one testicle, check the other the same way. One testicle may be slightly larger or smaller; this is normal.
Lumps should be checked by a doctor.
You may notice bumps on the skin of your scrotum. These are often caused by an ingrown hair or by a rash. They are usually not a cause for concern.