Ben Polk, diagnosed at 25

I’ll confess that even though I was 25, I had never done a self-exam before. In fact, I’d never really ever heard about testicular exams. One night I was just “rearranging” down there and felt something weird. I suspected that something was a little off, but the idea of cancer hadn’t crossed my mind. My left testicle felt like it had barnacles on it. Sharp, hard, jagged, but painless.

I remember that when I was about 13, my mother was told I had Gynecomastia, which I have heard can be a precursor to cancer later in life. Even though there isn’t any history of cancer in my family, when I felt something was off on my testicle I knew I had to see someone about it, so I moved as quickly as I could to get it checked.

Upon examination, my GP immediately referred me to a specialist/oncologist. The scheduler in that office said they wouldn’t be able to take me until later in the week, but I persisted and told them my symptoms and that I was worried about cancer (per my parents instructions, but in hindsight, something I would have done anyway). When I finally met with the oncologist, I asked him lots of questions about next steps, treatments, worse case scenarios, etc. The key for me was not being afraid. On that day, I had three different grown men feel my scrotum. Not your average Tuesday, to say the least.

A sonogram (ultrasound) confirmed that the three “barnacles” on my left testicle were in fact cancerous tumors. I had surgery the next day and my left testicle was removed.

“I recognize how lucky I am. I wasn’t afraid to go to a doctor right away to get checked out.”

I had heard of testicular cancer, but I had no idea what the signs were. After the fact, I found out another friend of mine had had it just before I did. I kind of wish he made it more public to warn others, but I can respect privacy. I’m now an advocate of making it known so that we can catch all types of cancers earlier.

I recognize how lucky I am. I wasn’t afraid to go to a doctor right away to get checked out. The thought of cancer had crossed my mind, and I can imagine some men might be afraid of that outcome, but I wanted to know ASAP.

Following surgery I learned that the removal was a success because we had caught the cancer cells early enough and could treat it. I spent the next week recovering with my family and then the next two weeks in radiation therapy. The radiation made me sick to my stomach every day, but it was a small price to pay to make me healthy again.

The biggest lessons were about checking myself regularly. Completing a self-exam takes only seconds and can be done on a weekly basis. The key to my success story was finding it early and asking the right questions. I consider myself very lucky, and extremely grateful.


  • left testicle had “barnacles” on it; they were sharp, hard, and jagged, but were painless