Justin Birckbichler is a fourth grade teacher, testicular cancer survivor and the founder of aBallsySenseofTumor.com. From being diagnosed in November 2016 at the age of 25, to finishing chemo in January 2017, to being cleared in remission in March, he has been passionate about sharing his story to spread awareness and promote open conversation about men's health. Connect with him on Instagram @aballsysenseoftumor, on Twitter @absotTC, on Facebook or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Inspired by a text message with a close friend, I'm starting a research study to answer this. I need your help.
In mid-April, I receive a text. "What age should doctors start doing testicular exams during a physical?"
I know the person who texted me that has two sons — a high school senior and an eighth grader. I assume she's talking about the younger of the two boys, so I respond, "Around 15, or whenever they're fully matured."
My friend responds, "My son's nearly 18 and he's never had one done by his doctor. My husband has, but never my son."
This floors me. Never in a million years would I have assumed she was talking about her nearly adult son. The irony of April being testicular cancer awareness month also makes me laugh a bit. But then I go into deep thought mode. Is this out of the norm or is this par the course?
As a men's health activist and testicular cancer survivor, I know a ton of facts and figures about testicular cancer. There are over 9,000 new cases of testicular cancer every year, averaging one new diagnosis every hour of every day. One in 250 men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer at some point in their life, with 50 percent of these cases occurring in men ages 15-35. About 6 percent of cases occur in children and teens, and about 8 percent occur in men over the age of 55. However, I didn't know this before becoming a testicular cancer patient, much like most men.
Unlike most men though, I knew about testicular lumps and that they were a bad omen. Ninety percent of the time, testicular cancer presents as a lump in the testicle. A lump in the testicle can be detected early through regular self-exams. Best done during or after a shower when the scrotum is relaxed, place your index and middle fingers under the testicle with your thumb on top. Firmly but gently, roll each testicle between your fingers. Any weird lumps or bumps should be checked out by a doctor ASAP.
According to a 2018 study done by CACTI, more than 1 in 3 of all men polled have never been told about the importance of a monthly testicular self- exam. Nearly half of those surveyed do not perform testicular self-exams. 42 percent of men don't even know how to perform one, according to the Testicular Cancer Society.
Doctors should be performing examinations during annual physicals and discussing how to do a self-exam monthly. Clearly, based on the text exchange with my former colleague, this isn't occurring as frequently as it should.
That anecdote got me fired up. I decided to take action and formulate a research study.
In this study, I am looking for males of any age who have had a physical exam done by a doctor and their experiences related to testicular exams. I'm targeting non-testicular cancer patients/survivors, although there is a place on the form to enter that information.
This six-question survey is brief. All responses are anonymous, and all information is kept completely confidential. There are three demographic questions:
These are followed by three questions related to the physical:
Here's where I need your help.
If you're a guy and you're reading this email, visit bit.ly/absotdoctorsurvey to take it. It takes about a minute, and I'll be forever grateful.
Not an owner of testicles yourself, but still want to help? Send it on to guys who could participate.
As of the writing of this post, there are just over 350 responses. I'd love to have at least 500, but my ideal goal is 1,000. I really need your help; please don't make me beg!
Once enough results are gathered, I plan to aggregate the data to look at trends across men as a whole and specific age ranges. I'll publish these findings online on my website and on other partner sites. The post will include ways to advocate for your own testicular health and how to help advocate for other men, too.
But, there's a bigger problem here. This information needs to get into the hands of medical professionals, as well. I plan to partner with a doctor/medical student after the completion of the study to help spread the findings as widely as possible. Men deserve to have their health taken seriously.
No matter your gender, I'd love your assistance in spreading the word and sharing this survey so we can maximize the sample size.
Steal this graphic and post it everywhere. Share the link on social media. Email this post to every guy in your life. Rent a billboard and splash the short link up there. Go nut(s)!