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Pregnant Pause


Claim:   A home pregnancy test can detect testicular cancer.

PARTLY TRUE

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, March 2014]

There is a new rumor on Facebook about a young man who peed on a pregnancy test as joke and it came out positive. He thought it was funny but was told to get checked out for testicular cancer. Upon going to the doctor, he found that he did indeed have testicular cancer. Can a pregnancy test really detect testicular cancer?
 

Origins:   Back in November 2012, a Reddit user with the screen name 'CappnPoopdeck' posted a humorous rage comic to that site, one that detailed the experiences of a male friend who had jokingly taken a pregnancy test left in his medicine cabinet by an ex-girlfriend and surprisingly obtained a positive result:


Although the post was intended as nothing more than a joke, the responses on Reddit soon took a serious turn, with CappnPoopdeck being advised, "If this is true, you should check yourself for testicular cancer. Seriously. Google it."

In fact, it turned out that pregnancy tests will record a positive result upon the detection of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which is produced not only by pregnant women but also by some men with testicular tumors. CappnPoopdeck posted a follow-up comic informing Redditors that her friend had visited a doctor and found a small tumor in his right testicle (caught early enough to be treated immediately), and she thanked them for their helpful advice:


However, although a home pregnancy test may be able to detect some forms of testicular cancer, this Redditor's experience should not be taken to mean that such tests are a reliable method of detecting that disease. As the American Cancer Society has noted, they reliably apply in only a small minority of testicular cancer cases:
Just because the test helped this man get a positive cancer diagnosis doesn't mean it’s a reliable tool everyone should use, according to the American Cancer Society.

The organization put the question to Ted Gansler, director of medical content, who wrote that "only a small minority of men" with testicular cancer have HCG levels high enough to be detected by a home pregnancy test. He added that "several non-cancerous conditions can cause false positive results."

According to Gansler, "current evidence does not indicate that screening the general population of men with a urine test for HCG (or with urine or blood tests for any other tumour marker) can find testicular cancer early enough to reduce testicular cancer death rates."

One thing men can do is be on the lookout for lumps in the testicles and see your doctor if you find one. Testicle pain or swelling and heaviness or aching in the lower abdomen are also possible signs of testicular cancer.
In February 2014, a 21-year-old student also discovered he had testicular cancer, and obtained a potentially life-saving diagnosis, due to information about the disease he found on Reddit:
A 21-year-old student is thanking Reddit for saving his life, after a post on testicular cancer led to a life-saving diagnosis.

Taylor "Chase" Tyree, a computer science major at the Colorado School of Mines, was reading the social media site Reddit when he came across a post from a user called "uniballer," who talked about being diagnosed with testicular cancer and posted a photo of his removed testicle.

Tyree found that the symptoms "uniballer" described were similar to ones he had been experiencing for months.

Symptoms of testicular cancer can include swelling or finding a mass in the testicles. Testicular cancer is the most common cause of cancer for American males between the ages of 15 and 34, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The day after reading the post Tyree went to the doctor to be checked and was immediately sent in for further tests. After giving Tyree an ultrasound, doctors found that Tyree had a cancerous mass in his left testicle. Just four days after seeing the Reddit post, Tyree had surgery to have his left testicle removed.

Last updated:   13 March 2014

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Sources:

    Castillo, Michelle.   "Man's Positive Pregnancy Test Leads to Cancer Diagnosis with Reddit's Help."
    CBS News.   7 November 2012.

    Kim, JuJu.   "Man Gets Treatment for Cancer Thanks to a Home Pregnancy Test and Reddit."
    Time.   8 November 2012.

    Mohney, Gillian.   "'Reddit Saved My Life': Student Finds Testicular Cancer After Seeing Post."
    ABC News.   20 February 2014.

    Weeks, Carly.   "Man Takes Pregnancy Test — with Surprising Results."
    The Globe and Mail.   8 November 2012.