Talk to a guy, any guy, and they’ll tell you: At some point in their lives (probably right now!) they’ve had balls that itched. When your precious family jewels are locked between a hot and a sweaty place, it’s inevitable that you’re going to get some jungle rot down there.
This is what men refer to as a “mild inconvenience.” Just another cobblestone in the uneven road of life, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Unfortunately, it seems, that may no longer be true.
A piece in the Washington Post on Saturday tells the story of a guy for whom “jock itch” turned into something very real, and very scary. Stephen Schroeder had what he thought was just your run-of-the-mill itchy balls. Only, it lasted for several months, and came with, at first, a small, purplish pimple on his scrotum, then a scaly, red rash.
After finally consulting with his doctor — and getting the worst kind of “are you sitting down?” phone call while he was boarding a plane — Schroeder learned what that itch in his pants actually was: An invasive cancer called extramammary Paget’s disease, or EMPD. EMPD is deadly: According to one study, it has a mortality rate between 18 and 46 percent. Making things worse, EMPD is both extremely hard to diagnose, thanks to looking more like eczema than cancer, and likely to recur.
The good news is that EMPD is extremely rare. As the Post notes, only a few hundred cases worldwide have ever been reported (and that includes cases among women, where the diagnosis is relatively less rare).
After difficult and painful surgeries to remove the cancer and a recurrence in 2016, Schroeder went public with his diagnosis in an effort to warn other men that minor maladies can actually be quite serious, and to get themselves checked out.
After all, you never know when a case of itchy balls can turn into something far more sinister.
A few other things we learned about our bodies today:
- Another day, another surprising health benefit tied to cannabis. This time it’s in preventing irregular heartbeats among heart-failure patients.
- Thanks to long hours and stress, doctors are burning out at a frightening rate, and it’s leaving hospitals with coverage gaps.
- American seniors are sicker than the 65-and-over crowd in almost other every developed country.
- Three cups of coffee a day keeps the doctor away.
- A new study reports that we’re dying from booze and drugs at an alarming rate — and it looks like the party’s just getting started.
- In today’s “no, duh” news, it’s no coincidence that people feared fat for so long — it’s exactly what the sugar industry wanted you to think.
Jeff Gross is a content strategist and writer for MEL. He last wrote about how terrifyingly bad energy drinks are for your physical and mental health.