How I helped discover my partner’s testicular cancer

By Jessica

Names have been changed to protect anonymity.

I wouldn’t say I was spending all that much time with Mark’s testicles—I mean sure, partners are familiar with each other’s bodies—sometimes more familiar with their body than your own. But when I asked why one testicle was a different size than the other in December 2012, it was a naive question that I was genuinely curious (not concerned) about. I mean, people have different size feet, different size ears, I thought it was a silly question. I never thought it was going to turn into anything serious.

But by bringing it up, it put the idea in Mark’s mind that something could be wrong. A few weeks later he didn’t feel pain, but a sensation that was enough for him to bring up with his doctor. I’m so thankful Mark was proactive about his health and went in right away, telling his doctor about the size difference and sensation he was experiencing. While it’s possible for one testicle to be different in size than the other, if the change in size is sudden or if you also have pain—like Mark experienced—you should see your health care provider as soon as possible.

The doctor did an ultrasound and thought everything was ok. Knowing a family history of the disease can put you at increased risk, we pressed for a second opinion. (Which is why I can’t take full credit for discovering his diagnosis—Mark’s father had testicular cancer.) After an MRI, Mark and his doctor decided on surgery to determine what was going on. It turned out the size difference was being caused by a cancerous mass. The surgery was the only treatment he needed and today, Mark is 10-years cancer-free.

As a health writer and someone who has experienced it firsthand through a partner, I know the importance of detecting cancer early. The better habit you get in of formally checking your body each month, the better. Knowing your body and your partner’s body well enough to notice a change can make all the difference.

When I brought up that naive question over ten years ago, I never thought it would lead to a cancer diagnosis. We ask ourselves how much to freak out about every little thing we notice, but if there’s one thing I know now, it’s that if what you say can save a life—say it.

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