Justin Birckbichler, diagnosed at 25

Prior to my diagnosis, I had 25 years of the most boring medical history ever.

I had scoliosis for a few years, but it stabilized. I battled with depression in high school, but survived that. I had some cavities filled and my wisdom teeth removed. I suffered a mild concussion once when I took a tumble on a snowboarding trip. I am colorblind, but that hasn’t changed at all in the past few years.

I didn’t make health a priority, and perhaps my uneventful health history and lack of testicular cancer in my family history caused me to be less worried overall.

I was doing a self-exam in the shower and felt what seemed to be a pea-sized lump. The following day, when I went to check myself again, I did not feel anything.

“Carpe Scrotiem! Don’t be afraid to check yourself and talk about your ‘boys’ with your boys!”

Looking back, my decision to forget about my discovery for a while could have been because I was just being a typical guy — ignoring a symptom because “guys don’t go to the doctor.” Perhaps, because there was no “pain” associated with the lump, I thought it was nothing. So I ignored it.

Flash forward, and I was in the shower, checking myself again, and felt something in the same spot as last time. But what I had noticed last time was one small pea-sized lump, and this felt larger.

I thought back to my annual checkup, which I had neglected this year, and how the doctor always described lumps as something to take seriously. I knew I couldn’t put it off again and called my doctor to schedule an appointment.

Initially, the nurse practitioner I saw had an issue with finding the lump. I was flabbergasted that it was hard to find, but I also know my body best, so I kind of rearranged myself to find and isolate the lump so she could feel it. She did then find it and confirmed yes, there was a lump.

The next step was to get an ultrasound. The results from that test caused my doctor to suspect cancer. This would be confirmed after surgery. The testicle was removed at the end of the month, but a CT scan in early November revealed that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes — officially my diagnosis/staging was Stage IIB nonseminoma testicular cancer — so I needed BEP chemotherapy.

My advice to others is: Carpe Scrotiem! Don’t be afraid to check yourself and talk about your ‘boys’ with your boys! On a serious note, men need to start by talking openly about their health. I want to live in a world where we can freely talk about testicular self-exams.

Not talking about it can be a potentially life-threatening mistake. Keeping each other accountable for performing regular self-checks is also critical. Without honest conversations, this accountability is impossible.


  • no early symptoms, caught during a self-exam