Queer men’s health: Touching yourself could save your life


It’s rare, but did you know that men can also get breast cancer? If you have breast tissue (and we all do), you can develop it. According to the CDC, about 1 out of every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the United States is found in a man.

Most men, though, don’t do a self-exam. The common misconception is that it’s a women’s issue and there is no need to go feeling yourself up for lumps.

Sorry, guys. You have to check too. Breast cancer can be very effectively treated – provided you find it early enough. The obvious would be lumps in the breast tissue, but you also need to pay attention to the shape of your nipples, any pain or discharge.

Checking under your armpits for lumps is also a good idea. Most lumps are actually benign, but it’s always a good idea to see your doctor and get them checked out in any case.

Risk factors for breast cancer include smoking, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, and age. If you have had mumps as an adult, or were not immunised against it as a child, you may also be at increased risk.

When it comes to cancers – like breast and testicular cancer – it is also important to keep in mind that if there is a history of cancer in your family you are at higher risk. If you have had testicular issues in the past, for example, an undescended testicle, that may increase your chances of testicular cancer.

Testicular cancer affects one in 1,578 men in South Africa. And while that seems like a small number, it is still important to check yourself regularly for any lumps. This cancer can affect any age group and the cause and risk factors associated with it are unknown.

The majority of testicular cancers can be detected early. Usually, the first signs of it appear as a small lump or swelling on the testicles. The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) recommends that men allocate 10 minutes a month to examine their testicles. (No, not someone else’s, yours!)

These lumps could be benign fatty tissue, but as always, it’s best to make your way to your GP if you find any anomalies in your testicles. Early detection is key to successful treatment.

November is known as “Movember” – a month dedicated to testicular cancer awareness when many men grow out their moustaches as a sign of solidarity. And while standing together is a magnificent idea, it’s also important to not only spread awareness, but to also take care of your health.

Yes, it may feel embarrassing to get your breast tissue and testicles checked out by the doctor, however, you need to weigh up a few moments of awkwardness with the possibility of early and successful treatment for a life-threatening disease.

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