Health News Review

Veteran public health reporter André Picard of The Globe and Mail writes, “Sack the hysteria: Men’s shorts aren’t filled with cancer time bombs.“  He also posts this image from one campaign.

Story excerpt:

“Not only are the big organizations such as the Canadian Cancer Society starting to take interest in men’s gonads, a bunch of smaller specialized organizations are springing up like Testicular Cancer Canada and Oneball. Having high-profile survivors like Lance Armstrong doesn’t hurt either.

Having a health knowledge of one’s body and being aware of changes that can be revelatory of serious health problems – like lumps, growths and tenderness of the testicles – is important.

After all, it is well-known that men – and young men in particular – tend to avoid dealing with health problems, especially when things are going wrong “down there.” (It is telling that Testicular Cancer Canada was founded by a woman whose partner died of the condition.)

The unfortunate thing, however, is that the new-found mania for the promotion of routine testicular self-examination has no real scientific basis. …

The groups urging the self-testing of testes, unfortunately, seem to be going the same route and not paying much heed to the evidence.

There is a not-so-fine line between empowerment and fear, between awareness and exploitation. At times – and with increasing frequency it seems – the breast cancer movement has crossed those lines.”

As I’ve learned so often, some people are not prepared to hear that message.  Some will always place their personal anecdote on a higher plateau than population-wide evidence. It’s understandable why they do so, but newspaper stories like this are intended to educate readers about evidence and about the tradeoffs involved in any screening decision. Some of the online reader comments in response to Picard’s piece:

  • “You would be singing a different tune if you had testicular cancer. As the mother of a young man who survived I think it is interesting how many people don’t know about testicular cancer. Your point is really ridiculous.”
  • “Shame on Mr. Picard for belittling the importance of men’s cancers…We are supposed to be encouraging men to speak to their doctors about these issues, and not shrouding them in complacency!

I think there’s a great deal of value in newspaper stories discussing some of the silent dangers of awareness campaigns – “false alarms and unnecessary fears.”

As we do often on this site, we remind you that this is not a new issue.  It’s one we’ve written about before, as in this example:

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