When I first came across this article on ABC News, I thought it was a joke -- and so did the man taking the pregnancy test.
He would soon find out that his positive pregnancy test was no laughing matter.
An unidentified gentleman took it upon himself to jokingly use a pregnancy test that his ex-girlfriend left behind, and what he found was shocking -- two pink lines. Yes, you read correctly, his urine tested positive on a pregnancy test stick.
What was thought to be a comical posting on a site known as Reddit, soon turned into a long thread of more than 1,300 comments from concerned strangers urging him to seek medical advice. "You may have testicular cancer! Get to an oncologist, tell them you took a pregnancy test and it came out positive." One person wrote.
The man took the comments seriously enough to consult with a physician and unfortunately, a tiny lump was discovered in the man’s right testicle.
So, you're probably wondering how this could even be possible. It’s quite simple really: beta hCG. Pregnancy tests detect beta human chorionic gonadotropin, or beta hCG, which is detected when urine is applied directly to a pregnancy test stick. In females, this hormone is produced by a developing placenta, and can be detected via the blood and/or urine. But now experts are suggesting that beta hCG is produced by testicular cancers.
"It turns out a fair number of testicular cancers make the same exact hormone,” said Dr. Mark Pomerantz, a genitourinary oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, who was quoted in the article. He goes on to say that there are a very few things in the body that produce beta hCG, and testicular cancer is one of them.
According to a second Reddit post pertaining to the unknown male, the testicular tumor was caught early, but the gentleman may require a right orchiectomy.
In this situation, according to Dr. Pomerantz, the testicle usually requires surgical removal. "But we are lucky with this disease, in that the vast majority of cases, even if they’re caught further along, are still very curable."
According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rate for testicular cancer is 99 percent. This number may decrease to around 72 percent if there is lymph node and/or other organ involvement, which would then require chemotherapy and radiation.
Beta hCG levels are a good indicator of a tumor’s response to treatment. Levels are expected to drop after surgery. If not, further treatment may be indicated, including chemotherapy and/or radiation.
While a pregnancy test isn’t the most conventional way for men to detect testicular cancer, it may have saved this gentleman’s life. In addition to hormone levels, men can also perform monthly self-exams similar to that of a woman for breast cancer.
Here are some tips on performing testicular exams:
- Checking one testicle at a time, hold the testicle between the thumb and fingers of both hands and roll gently between fingers (this may be easier to perform during a warm bath or shower as heat relaxes the scrotum)
- Look and feel for any hard lumps, or for any change in the size and/or shape of the testes
It is also important to remember risk factors associated with testicular cancer:
- An undescended testicle
- Abnormal testicle development (such as with Klinefelter’s syndrome)
- Family history
- Age (testicular cancer typically affects men ages 15 to 34; however, it can occur at any age)
- Race (testicular is more common in white men than in black men)
After this story, pregnancy tests may soon start disappearing off the shelves... and it won’t be for wives or girlfriends. It may be just another step toward testicular cancer detection and prevention.