Cancer. It’s a little word that can mean the world. For most people it’ll never be more than that, for others it’s a word that will come to define their very existence. Over 7 million people a year are diagnosed with cancer. To put it in perspective, that’s the entire population of Hong Kong. Cancer can affect almost any part of a human body. Its victims are rich, poor, male, female, gay, straight, black and white. They can also be young.
The idea that cancer can affect people who aren’t over 30 is a tough one, and it isn’t often talked about. The reasons for this are obvious. Between the ages of 18 and 30 we are vital, we are young, we are invincible. Life is for a career, for love, for adventure; the distant future nothing but a dot on the horizon. And that’s the way things should be. But as every parent or grandparent will tell you, life isn’t always the adventure you want it to be, and even the best laid plans of mice and men can go awry.
Whilst cancer in young people is still relatively rare, it does happen. Testicular cancer is twice as likely to affect men aged between 15-24 years than it is those aged between 25-50. Similarly, the likelihood of contracting ovarian cancer is twice as high in young women as it is in those approaching middle age. Whilst the breast cancer statistics in young women are almost non-existent, after the age of 25 the chance of diagnosis shoots up by an absolutely staggering 44%.
Testicular cancer in men and breast cancer in women are both potential killers. They’re big, they’re frightening, and they happen every day to people who never see it coming. The only real way to deal with them is to go all Liam Neeson on their arse. Look for them, find them, kill them.
Yes, cancer survival rates are improving every year. Treatment improves every year. In a decade or two we might even have a cure. But for now, the best way to survive a cancer diagnosis is still through early detection. That’s right, ‘copping a feel’ on a regular basis could one day save your life. And lets face it, it’s hardly a chore. Just ten minutes a month spent delicately checking breasts or testicles (or both for the ‘hemaphroditically’ inclined among us) in the bath or shower is more than enough. Guys, getting intimate with the ol’ meat and two veg pretty much guarantees that you’ll find uninvited lumps, and bumps much earlier than those who are too lazy or too short sighted to do so. Ladies, getting those wandering fingers in practice now, could mean the difference between a quick date with the doctor and an appointment with a hospital operating table later. Why take the risk when prevention is this simple?
Though cancer awareness for young people often sounds like a duty bound dance with death, 80% of all testicular and mammary based lumps are benign, totally harmless. Copping a feel on a regular basis is not about dicing with the reaper. Chances are you’ll never have to that discussion with your doctor, chances are you’ll never find a thing to worry about. But some do. And time and time again, those with the most curious fingers come out on top.
Self examining breasts or testicles is easy. It’s really easy. But there are hundreds of helpful, in-depth guides available on the internet for those who aren’t quite sure how to go about it. Such guides go into varying degree’s of detail, some advise a long and complicated ‘feel up,’ others more of a ‘feel and run.’ Somewhere in-between is probably best. Though the parts aren’t the same, self examination is very similar for both men and women. Best performed after a bath or a shower, when the body is at its most revealing, self examination involves little more than a firm but fair exploration of all those nooks and crannies. Ladies should ensure that they cover all areas of the breast, including the nipple and the armpit, using the flat tips of their fingers. Fellas, remember to roll testicles between thumb and forefinger, applying a small amount of pressure as you do. Potentially unhealthy lumps will feel very hard and will be small enough to squeeze between the fingers.
If you do happen to find anything that feels worthy of concern, don’t panic. The benign odds are on your side. It is almost certainly nothing to worry about. Book an appointment with the doctor, grimace your way through an examination carried out with inexplicably cold hands, and know that you’re giving your body the TLC it really needs. Feel free to stare dreamily into the doctor’s eyes as he examines you. If you blow him some kisses he might even think about warming his hands next time.
If you treat cancer awareness as a chore, it will be a chore. Treat it as a cheeky reward at bath time, and you’ll never want to get out of the bath. And remember, nobody said they had to be your hands.