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Self Screening

Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer occurs in the testicles (testes), which are located inside the scrotum, a loose bag of skin underneath the penis. Compared with other types of cancer, testicular cancer is rare. But for young men aged 15 to 34, testicular cancer is the most common cancer here in the United States. The cause of testicular cancer is unknown.

Testicular cancer is highly treatable, even when cancer has spread beyond the testicle. Depending on the type and stage of testicular cancer, you may receive one of several treatments, or a combination of treatments.

Check yourself regularly:
Regular testicular self-examinations can help identify growths early, when the chance for successful treatment of testicular cancer is highest.

A testicular self exam is best performed after a warm bath or shower because heat relaxes the scrotum, making it easier to spot anything abnormal. The National Cancer Institute recommends following these steps every month:

  • Stand in front of a mirror. Check for any swelling on the scrotum skin.
  • Examine each testicle with both hands. Place the index and middle fingers under the testicle with the thumbs placed on top. Roll the testicle gently between the thumbs and fingers. Don't be alarmed if one testicle seems slightly larger than the other. That's normal.
  • Find the epididymis, the soft, tubelike structure behind the testicle that collects and carries sperm. If you are familiar with this structure, you won't mistake it for a suspicious lump. Cancerous lumps usually are found on the sides of the testicle, but can also show up on the front.
  • If you find a lump, see a doctor right away. The abnormality may not be cancer, but if it is, the chances are great it can spread if not stopped by treatment. Only a physician can make a positive diagnosis.

Skin Cancer

Your doctor or nurse may suggest that you do a regular skin self-exam to check for skin cancer, including melanoma. The best time to do this exam is after a shower or bath. You should check your skin in a room with plenty of light. You should use a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror. It's best to begin by learning where your birthmarks, moles and other marks are, and their usual look and feel.

Check for:

  • New mole (that looks different from your other moles).
  • New red or darker color flaky patch that may be a little raised.
  • New flesh-colored firm bump.
  • Change in the size, shape, color or feel of a mole.
  • Sore that does not heal.

Check yourself from head to toe. Don't forget to check your back, scalp, genital area and between your buttocks.

  • Look at your face, neck, ears and scalp. You may want to use a comb or a blow dryer to move your hair so that you can see better. You also may want to have a relative or friend check through your hair. It may be hard to check your own scalp.
  • Look at the front and back of your body in the mirror. Then, raise your arms and look at your left and right sides.
  • Bend your elbows. Look carefully at your fingernails, palms, forearms (including the undersides), and upper arms.
  • Examine the back, front and sides of your legs. Also look around your genital area and between your buttocks.
  • Sit and closely examine your feet, including toenails, soles and the spaces between your toes.

By checking your skin regularly, you will learn what is normal for you. It may be helpful to record the dates of your skin exams and to write notes about the way your skin looks. If your doctor has taken photos of your skin, you can compare your skin to the photos to help check for changes. If you find anything unusual, see your doctor.

Oral Cancer

You play a vital role in preventing oral cancer in yourself and your loved ones. You know yourself better than any health professional. A self examination can find suspicious areas in your mouth very early on that can make a difference in case there are any changes in your mouth that need attention. If you notice any changes in your mouth, cheeks, or throat, contact your dentist or health care provider immediately.

Regular dental checkups are essential for good oral health. See your dentist twice a year for a complete oral examination, oral cancer screening, and to have your teeth cleaned by a dental professional.

An oral cancer examination and screening is best done regularly by your dentist. However, individuals can also perform this self-examination between dental visits to check for any early signs of oral cancer. If you are concerned about any of your findings, immediately see your dentist for an evaluation.

How to perform an oral self-exam:

  • Use a bright light and a mirror.
  • First, remove any dentures.
  • Press along the sides and front of the neck and feel for tenderness or lumps. Do the same on your face. Take note of any bumps or swelling.
  • Pull your upper lip up and look for sores and color changes on your lips and gums. Repeat this on your lower lip.
  • Use your fingers to pull out your cheeks and look for color changes such as red, white or dark patches. Put your index finger on the inside and your thumb on the outside of your cheeks to feel for any lumps. Repeat on other cheek.
  • Tilt your head back and open your mouth wide to see if there are lumps or color changes.
  • Grab your tongue with a cotton gauze and examine for swellings or color changes. Look at the top, back, and each side of your tongue.
  • Touch the roof of your mouth with your tongue and look at the underside of your tongue and the floor of your mouth. See if there are color changes or lumps. When possible, use one finger inside your mouth and one finger on the outside corresponding to the same place and feel for unusual bumps, swelling or tenderness.

When performing an oral self-examination, look for the following:

  • A sore in your mouth that bleeds easily and does not heal.
  • A lump or thick spot in your cheek that can be felt with your tongue.
  • A white or red patch on your gums, tongue or anywhere in your mouth.
  • Soreness or a feeling that something is caught in your throat.
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing your food.
  • Difficulty moving your jaw or tongue.
  • Numbness of your tongue or other parts of your mouth.
  • Swelling of your upper or lower jaw that causes your dentures to fit poorly or hurt your mouth.

Breast Cancer

Male breast cancer is rare, so routine screening mammograms (mammography) generally aren't recommended for men. However, men also have breast tissue that can undergo cancerous changes. While women are about 100 times more likely to get breast cancer, a man can develop breast cancer. Male breast cancer is most common between the ages of 60 and 70.

If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, consider talking to your doctor about developing a breast-screening program. A simple monthly breast self-exam is suggested to check your own breasts for lumps or anything that seems unusual. Lumps and other symptoms may be caused by male breast cancer. Other conditions also may cause the same symptoms. A doctor should be seen if changes in the breasts are noticed.

The outcome for male breast cancer is the same as for breast cancer in women. In the past, male breast cancer was often diagnosed at a more advanced stage, which may have led people to believe it had a worse outcome. Although male breast cancer and breast cancer in women are similar, important distinctions, such as breast size and awareness, affect early diagnosis and survival in cases of male breast cancer.

The best time to perform a male breast self exam is during or right after a warm shower or bath as warm, soapy water relaxes and smoothes the skin, making the exam easier to perform.

How to perform a male breast self exam:

  • Check each breast one at a time.
  • Use your right hand fingers to check your left breast and your left hand fingers to check your right breast.
  • With your fingers flat against the breast, press firmly in small, clockwise circles.
  • Start at the outermost top edge of your breast and spiral towards the nipple.
  • Feel for hard lumps or bumps in your breast. Be certain to cover all parts of your breast.
  • Gently squeeze both nipples and look for any discharge.
  • Look carefully for changes in the size, shape, and contour of each breast, e.g., puckering, dimpling, or changes in skin texture.

Please note that the above is not meant to take the place of a comprehensive medical or dental examination and screening by a health or dental professional. It is only meant as a guide.