If youíre a man who is reluctant to go to the doctor for an annual checkup, you can help yourself stay healthy by being aware of your body. Take ten or fifteen minutes once a month to perform three simple self-checks.
1. According to the Testicular Cancer Resource Center, men over the age of 14 might benefit from checking their testicles once a month. The ideal time to do it is right after a bath or shower, as the heat relaxes the scrotum and makes the exam easier to perform.
To begin, stand in front of a mirror and check the skin of the scrotum for bumps or swelling.
Check each testicle with both hands by manipulating it slowly between the thumbs and fingers. Feel every side of the testicle, looking for lumps or swelling. If you feel pain or something abnormal, call the doctor. Having one testicle slightly larger than the other, or one hanging down slightly lower than the other, is normal.
The first few times you do the exam, you want to focus on getting to know what is normal for you: how the scrotal skin folds, how each testicle feels, and the location of the epididymis, the tube-like structure at the back of the testicle that carries sperm. While lumps on either side of the testicle may possibly be cancerous, those on the epididymis are not.
Do not delay calling your doctor if you feel a lump, as testicular cancer will spread if not treated. Other signs of cancer may include sudden enlargement of a testicle, a heavy feeling in the scrotum, or pain in the scrotum.
2. The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests that everyone should do monthly full-body self-examinations, as skin cancer is treatable if detected early. Regular checks will help you determine what is normal for you, so if anything changes, youíll know right away. You are looking for anything that looks odd, such as sores, moles, and bumps.
Have as many mirrors as you need nearby, and for even better results, ask someone to help you. To begin the self-exam, carefully look at the skin on your face and neck. Pay special attention to folds, such as those in and around your ears and nose. Take a blow dryer and part the hair all around your head, so you can look at your scalp.
Work your way around your body, from your shoulders to your feet. Always look under any skin folds or recessed areas, such as your underarms, your genitals, and inside your belly button. Turn around and use mirrors to check the back of your body. Donít forget the bottom of your feet.
3. Especially if you smoke or chew tobacco, a monthly oral check will alert you to any possible gum or tongue problems. An oral self-exam takes only a few minutes, and youíll want to use a small round dental mirror. Examine every inch of your mouth for any sores, bumps, crusty areas, or red or white patches.
If you find anything suspicious or have a spot anywhere in your mouth (such as a burn from eating hot food) that takes longer than two weeks to heal, see your dentist. Other signals that you may have oral problems include ear pain, a change in the way your teeth align when you bite down, or unexplained jaw swelling.
No matter which exams you do, if you find anything you have a question about, call your doctor. Delaying treatment or waiting for problems to go away makes the situation worse. The sooner youíre treated, the sooner you can get on with your life.