June 28, 2013

Breasts and Señor Testiculo

Photo: B.Meijers/ flicker
I’m not sure why it seems to be more difficult to talk about men’s balls then women’s breasts. I mean basically everyone has a couple of one or the other. Maybe it’s because his balls are such a vulnerable part of a man’s anatomy. What’s critically important, however, is to get comfortable talking about these body parts, because the life of someone you know may depend on it. This post is about what those two parts of the human anatomy have in common . . . cancer.


According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), in the U.S., one in every 260 men will be diagnosed with cancer of the testis during their lifetime. While the NCI says the average age for a cancer diagnosis is 33, 6.2% of the males who were diagnosed were under age twenty. The good news is the overall survival rate, with early detection, is 95.3%. Now that is an argument for making friends with your balls.

I think I’m safe in saying most men don’t like thinking about their most personal equipment being squeezed or poked. I think women are better at those exams then men. Not that women like being squeezed or poked any more than a guy does. It’s just that for most women, the lessons and conversations about female reproductive anatomy start early, and then there are those regular monthly reminders. It’s pretty safe to say most men don’t get that kind of education. If you’re a man, when you were a young male, did anyone ever say anything to you about your balls? Except to avoid getting them kicked, of course?
If you’re a man, did anyone ever say anything to you about your balls,
except to avoid getting them kicked?
Men are also notorious for avoiding doctor visits if at all possible. I think it’s something in the male DNA having to do with not wanting to be or feel vulnerable. Standing in a small, cold office, with your pants and underwear at your knees, and having your testicles manipulated in the hand of a doctor you don’t know, is pretty much the very definition of physical vulnerability for most men. I don’t care if the person is wearing a white coat, is nice, and has warm hands; it’s just really odd.

By now, most of us have almost instant recognition of the pink, breast cancer awareness ribbon and the countless related fund-raising events. But what would you say is the identifying equivalent for men’s testicular cancer?

If you said Movember, you’d have one good answer. In the past, I've written here about the Movember initiatives around the world, all designed to increase everyone's awareness about men's cancers. Now, thanks to a reader’s referral, I've been pointed to another interesting approach for raising everyone's awareness about testicular cancer. Let me introduce Señor Testiculo!

The Associação de Assistência às Pessoas com Cancer, is a Brazilian nom-profit health promoting organization in Vicosa, Brazil. Their goal is to raise awareness of all types of cancer, and have recently come up with an interesting promotional idea. They have created a new mascot named Señor Testiculo, or Mr. Balls. What could be more inviting that a smiling pair of hairy testicles, looking like a brown snowman, with a bad haircut, and one tooth, walking around at a health fair or horse show?

I think Mr. Balls is just a little creepy, and I’m not at all sure I’d want a picture taken with him for my Facebook page (does that mean I have some work to do?). In any case, if you want to see pictures of Señor Balls hanging out with (slightly uncomfortable) women, girls, babies, men and boys at a recent health fair, check out the Associação de Assistência às Pessoas com Câncer website, or just Google Señor Testiculo.

I guess if it starts the conversation with men and young males about testicular cancer and frequent self-exams, it's a good thing. Early detection might just save your life or the life of a man or boy you know.


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