Lovin’ the Jewels – Feeling your balls for health

The testes are veritable dynamos of manufacturing power, churning out about 1000 sperm per second, or about 30 billion – yes, billion – per year.  Mathematically speaking, 10 to 20 ejaculations hold enough sperm to populate the earth.

Human sexuality in a world of diversity
Rathus Nevid  Fitness-Rathus Herold & McKay

So it’s not the penis alone that is worthy of our respect, you dig?images  And with that in mind, it is incredibly important that we teach our male children to treat their testes with the reverence that they deserve.

Starting at a young age we teach them to never ever kick or hit another boy or man in the groin. Why? Because it hurts.  A lot.  But that isn’t the only lesson on testicles.

When our boys are 7, 8, 9 or so and get busy with sport and video games, teach them to:

  • protect their bits by using a jock while participating in sports
  • keep ‘the boys’ cool.  Testicles need to be cooler than our core temperature.  Thats why they dangle away from the body.  The fabulous scrotum exist to moderate the temperature of the testicles within it.  People with testicles understand this when they jump in a cold lake on a hot summer’s day.  It’s a good idea to help your sons make that connection though so they avoid letting very warm laptops rest on their laps for long periods of time.

When our sons become sexually active, (or as part of the conversations that we have to best prepare ours son for sexual activity), communicate the need to:

  • wear a condom during anal or vaginal sex.  Risk is significantly lower but using a safe for oral sex is a good idea too.
    • Going without protection is one of the greatest ways to put testicles at risk.  Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection that  can really mess with the jewels. This common bacterial infection can cause Epididymitis, a painful inflammation of the ducts that the sperm travels through as it makes its way out of the body.  Untreated Chlamydia (which can happen since there may be no symptoms) can cause scarring of these ducts which can impact fertility. Young men are generally not concerned with fertility. They do like to avoid pain though, so it might help to drive that point home.
  • seek regular STI testing.  Even where a person always uses condoms, sexually transmitted infections can happen, especially around the base of the penis, testicles and anus.  A lot of (straight) men do not get tested for sexually transmitted infections.  It reminds me of the squeamishness boys show about pooping in the woods.  Females always have to squat to eliminate in nature and  seem more comfortable  with taking the position.  Similarly, women tend to have multiple reasons for seeing a health care provider about their girl parts and take care of the business more readily.  Often men avoid STI tests until they experience uncomfortable symptoms or until a partner uncovers a likely transmission.  There isn’t a set schedule for STI testing but impress the need for some vigilance in this department.  Whether it’s a quarterly test or annual one, to ensure long term genital health, a blood test or quick pee in a cup is important.
  • feel your balls, know your balls – though relatively rare, testicular cancer is the most common form of solid-tumor cancer to strike men between the ages of 20 and 24 so teaching boys the value of habitual (weekly or monthly) self-examination is a no-brainer.  Survival, if detected early (before the cancer has spread beyond the testes), is about 99%.  So parents, teach your boys to touch their balls.
    • Best in or after a shower when the scrotum is most relaxed and hanging furthest away from the body
    • Look for pea-sized lumps by gently rolling each nut between thumb and fingers.  Generally lumps are found on the side or front. Help your kid understand that if they find something, they shouldn’t freak out but ought to tell you or/and get it checked by a doctor.
    • Aside from a lump, warning signs can include a slight enlargement of one ball, change in the consistency of a ball, dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin, or a heavy sensation in the ball.

While prostate cancer is much more common than testicular cancer (1 in 7 men will develop it during their lifetime), it is typically a disease of much older men.  More than 80% of diagnoses are men over 65.  Usually men over 50 ought to talk to their doctors about it.  So if you have a son approaching 50…. I’m kidding but it’s a good reminder for dads and all the other men out there.  You can feel your balls if you want to but prostate health is determined in other ways.  But that’s another day’s blog.

Here’s a great video to watch with your teenage sons about feeling their balls. A full football team checks their balls.  I love this.



This article has 4 comments

  1. Loved your latest post about boys and their ‘jewels’ Marnie. Very informative. I am going to watch that video with my 12 year old son.
    Keep the sexplanations coming !

  2. Great post Marnie. I have found myself wondering lately why I keep telling my 5 year old son to “take his hands out of his pants.” I know this is something boys just do, I grew up seeing my brothers with their hands down their pants fairly regularly, and sure enough, my husband does the same, so I would appreciate your thoughts on how we encorage our boys to not be afraid to “check their bits” but at appropriate times (preferrably not at the breakfast table, which I have also witnessed my 8 year old nephew do), especially when they’re still so young.

    • Hi Blaire. Glad you liked the post. And you ask a good question about appropriate v. inappropriate times for checking their bits. It’s sort of like nose picking. I understand that sometimes only a finger can get what’s bugging you but there is a time and a place and in booger territory there is the germ factor too. Armpits aren’t full of bacteria that make people sick but I’d be grossed out if someone gave their pit a good scratch and then grabbed a handful of tortilla chips from a communal bag. I think it’s fair to let them know straight up that having their hands down their pants is fine but that there is a time and place for it. And maybe it’s in the bath or shower that you can encourage a closer feel about. Also, despite how often I remind my kids about nose picking, they still do it. I sort of lose my cool sometimes but later, with perspective, I know that these are often developmental milestones and that if I gently remind them about polite public behaviour, the lessons will likely be integrated at somepoint before they go to college. Good luck!!!

  3. […] I’m game to do what I can to avoid my sons getting cancer.  But even if you think a vaccine is not warranted to protect our male children from these […]

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