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Cancer Prevention - Get the Facts | Catch It Early

Cancer Prevention - Get the Facts

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Get educated on testicular cancer and breast cancer prevention. 

Testicular Cancer Prevention

Get the Facts about Testicular Cancer and Catching it Early


Testicular Self-Exam:

More than 95% of testicular cancers can be cured, and catching it early means a greater chance of cure, potentially with less aggressive treatment and fewer side effects. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends a testicular exam by a doctor as part of routine check-up. There is not enough evidence to say for certain that regular testicular self-exams can reduce the death rate from this disease. However, as is the case with women and self breast exams, you should become familiar with what your testicles feel like normally so that you will notice changes if they occur and can bring them to the attention of your doctor. Here's how to do a testicular self-exam (from the ACS): The best time to do the self-exam is during or after a bath or shower, when the skin of the scrotum is relaxed. To do a testicular self-exam:

  • Hold your penis out of the way and check one testicle at a time.
  • Hold the testicle between your thumbs and fingers of both hands and roll it gently between your fingers.
  • Look and feel for any hard lumps or smooth rounded bumps (nodules) or any change in the size, shape, or consistency of the testes.

You should know that each normal testis has an epididymis, which feels like a small "bump" on the upper or middle outer side of the testis. Normal testicles also contain blood vessels, supporting tissues, and tubes that conduct sperm. Other non-cancerous problems can sometimes cause swellings or lumpiness around a testicle. Some men may confuse these with cancer. If you have any doubts, see a doctor. If you choose to check your testicles, you will learn to tell what is normal for you and what is different. Always report any changes to a doctor right away. Sources: American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute


Breast Cancer Prevention

Your best protection is early detection!

Breast cancer will be diagnosed in more than 190,000 American women and more than 1,900 men. Thanks to improvements in screening and early detection as well as treatments, today about 9 in 10 women with breast cancer are alive five years after diagnosis. When caught at its earliest stages, the five-year survival rate is more than 98%. Still, more than 40,000 women in the United States, and 440 men, die from this cancer each year.

Who is at Risk?

As suggested in the Catch It Early video, breast size has nothing to do with breast cancer risk. However, there are some factors that are associated with an increased risk. The greatest risk factors are simply being female and getting older. More than half of breast cancers occur after age 61, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). BUT men can develop breast cancer and younger women, even in their 20s and 30s, do sometimes develop breast cancer. So it is important to be familiar with what your breasts feel like so that it changes occur, you notice them quickly and can bring to the attention of your doctor.

Other factors that increase risk from the ACS:

  • Family history, especially in a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter)
  • Post-menopausal hormone therapy, especially estrogen and progesterone combined
  • Overweight and obesity, especially excessive weight gain after menopause
  • Use of alcohol, especially daily intake
  • Physical inactivity
  • Long menstrual activity - that is, starting your periods young and/or being older at menopause
  • Never having children or having a first live birth after age 30
  • Previous chest radiation for a different cancer

The Vanderbilt Breast Center's medical director, Dr. Ingrid Meszoely, talked about managing breast cancer risk earlier this year with Patient Power's Andrew Schorr. Click here to download or stream the webcast.

Screening and Early Detection

The ACS recommends the following for screening and early detection of breast cancer:

Mammograms: Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health. While mammograms can miss some cancers, they are still a very good way to find breast cancer.

Clinical breast exam: Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of a regular exam by a health expert, at least every three years. After age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health expert every year. It might be a good idea to have the CBE shortly before the mammogram. You can use the exam to learn what your own breasts feel like.

Breast self-exam (BSE): BSE is an option for women starting in their 20s. Women should be told about the benefits and limitations of BSE. Women should report any changes in how their breasts look or feel to their health professional right away. Research has shown that BSE plays a small role in finding breast cancer compared with finding a breast lump by chance or simply being aware of what is normal for each woman. If you decide to do BSE, you should have your doctor or nurse check your method to make sure you are doing it right. If you do BSE on a regular basis, you get to know how your breasts normally look and feel. Then you can more easily notice changes. But it's OK not to do BSE or not to do it on a fixed schedule.

The American Cancer Society offers instructions on self-breast examination on its website.


See your doctor right away if you notice the following:

  • a lump or swelling
  • skin irritation or dimpling
  • nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
  • redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin
  • or a discharge other than breast milk.

But remember that most of the time these breast changes are not cancer.

For Women at High Risk

Women with a higher risk of breast cancer should talk with their doctor about the best approach for them, the ACS says. This might mean starting mammograms when they are younger, having extra screening tests, or having more frequent exams.

The Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center offers a Family Cancer Risk Service as well as a dedicated clinic for women at high-risk for breast cancer, both located at the Vanderbilt Breast Center at One Hundred Oaks. Click here for more information.

Additional resources

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