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Can I Really Use a Home Pregnancy Test to Check Myself for Testicular Cancer?

Someone's gotta pee on this stick to see if that viral meme is real

You’ve probably seen the story shared on Facebook, or on one of those Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: emails from your mom: As a lark, a dude finds his ex-girlfriend’s pregnancy test in his bathroom and, naturally, he pees on it, as men are wont to do. The test comes back positive, the dude thinks it’s hilarious and posts about it online. Much to his surprise, the internet replies not with humor, but concern: Reddit users advise him to get checked for testicular cancer, he does so and boom, he’s got cancer and Reddit saved his life. The end.

via MEME

Given both its meme-y nature and the fact that it sounds about as credible as “Disney VHS Tapes Worth Thousands!” or “Woman Gives Birth to 17 Babies!” you’d probably guess that the story is just more forgettable bullshit. As it turns out, though, there is a bit of truth to it. Whether the specific story is true, who knows (that’s between a man and his pregnancy test), but a home pregnancy test can detect testicular cancer in particular cases.

As sexual health doctor Joshua Gonzalez, M.D., explains, “There are certain types of testicular tumors that produce HCG, which is what is measured in some pregnancy tests.” HCG is a hormone that naturally occurs when a woman becomes pregnant — it’s believed that it protects the fetus from its mother’s immune system. In a man though, there’s really no good reason for HCG to be in their body, and if it’s there, it can be a marker for certain types of cancer, such as testicular, stomach, liver, and pancreatic, just to name a few. This also holds true for women, who may test positive on a pregnancy test without actually being pregnant.

In case you’re wondering if HCG can come about by some other, more harmless manner (like, say, the way a poppyseed bagel can make you test positive for opium), Gonzalez says that isn’t the case. HCG in a man probably means there’s “usually some kind of growth,” he cautions, and that it’s worth checking out.

Does this mean that every guy reading this should go out and buy a pregnancy test and pee all over it, then? Certainly, if you wanted to, it wouldn’t do you any harm, but it’s a highly ineffective way of detecting testicular cancer. As Gonzalez explains, “If your HCG is normal, that doesn’t mean you don’t have cancer.” So even if you pee on the pregnancy test and it comes back negative, it’s no guarantee that you’re in the clear.

A much more effective way to check yourself for testicular cancer, says Gonzalez, is to examine your testicles on a monthly basis. He recommends feeling around for anything that seems unfamiliar and particularly anything that feels hard. Doing this monthly will give you a good idea of what they’re supposed to feel like so that you have a baseline. You spend enough time down there anyway, how about once a month you just see if anything seems out of place? It’s a much better way to monitor your own well-being than some random-ass meme.