If you’ve gone anywhere near a doctors office (or anywhere other than under a rock for that matter) recently then it’s safe to say you’ve probably heard something about ‘those tests.’
You know the ones. Those medical checks that leave you feeling red-faced and like you’ve been kicked where no man should be kicked just thinking about them. We’re talking STI checks, prostate exams and having the family jewels examined – among others.
While they’re all ones that can be vital for men’s health, they’re ones we’re notorious for putting off and avoiding too. So if the thought of getting these ones sorted leaves you feeling squirmy, you’re definitely not alone. But the reality is, they don’t necessarily have to. The truth is that many of the fears and logistics around these tests have moved on from past years. Cliched one-liners (“this is going to hurt”) and nightmare images of doctors raising a gloved finger and telling you to drop your daks are often more myth than reality when it comes to modern medicine.
So what are the actual need to knows here – when do we need to get things checked, how do doctors do them and (more importantly) how do we survive ’em?
Old school STI checks often involved a swab inserted up the penis into the urethra, and universal opinion was that this was akin to some kind of wartime torture method. Thankfully, modern times mean most clinics will avoid this and the whole process is completely pain-free. Stats continue to show we’re still under par when it comes to getting these checked and treated though.
A standard STI check should involve a visual exam of the area (genitals, and potentially the anus and throat depending on what you’re up to/your symptoms). Urine tests now check for infections like Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea. A blood test will be needed for HIV, Hepatitis and Syphilis. Any sores or worts need swabs, and any positive tests might lead to the need for further types of testing.
Unprotected sex is the biggest risk factor here, but the risk depends too on things like the type of activities you’re into, number of partners, your location and who you’re doing it with.
Any skin changes, discharge (anything coming out that hasn’t before), swelling, unexplained pain or bleeding should lead to a check-up ASAP. Some STI’s are notorious for having no symptoms, so if you’ve had unprotected sex, a number of recent partners, found out a recent fling has something or you just want some peace of mind then it’s a good idea to get a once over.
Some clinics might still offer the swab up the urethra – but if you’re opposed (fair call) then requesting a urine or blood test is definitely something to consider.
The urine test requires you to catch the FIRST part of your stream for accurate results, so keep this clearly in mind when peeing in that cup.
It’s an intimate subject and so nerves are understandable – but it’s nothing your doctor won’t have seen or heard before. Testing needs depends on who you’re having sex with and what you’re doing so it’s vital to be honest about this when your doctor asks.
A rectal examination involves a doctor inserting a finger (usually the index finger) into anus and rectum to feel for any changes or causes for concern in the lower part of the bowel (including the prostate) where the colon ends.
A rectal exam might be needed for any symptom or change that involves pain, bleeding or a change in our number twos. Pain on going to the toilet, blood in the toilet bowl, constipation or a significant change in bowel habit are some examples that might signal the need to get things checked out.
There was a time when a rectal exam was standard practice for checking for prostate cancer, but routine checks for this aren’t generally recommended for most men. Any symptoms that might signal prostate troubles (change in flow of peeing, blood, pain) or strong family history might still mean this is needed however but it’s best to discuss testing pros/cons with your doc.
There’s no getting around the fact that this is a less than comfortable exam for most men – and your doctor knows this. There’s zero need to shy away from it or feel embarrassed, however.
Chose a doctor you’re comfortable with or know well, and let them know if you’re feeling nervous or understandably worried.
Your doc will use plenty of gel on the finger to make things as quick and painless as realistically possible, and overall it’ll be over before you know it without any major discomfort for most.
A colonoscopy is a test that involves a small flexible camera (on the end of a tube/cord) being inserted into the rectum and up the colon to view the walls of the bowel. The procedure is most often done in day surgery with you lying on your side, and can take up to an hour or two. A light sedative and some pain meds to manage any discomfort are usually all that is required.
A colonoscopy might be ordered when there are concerns around the potential for bowel cancer or conditions affecting the lower section of the bowels. Bleeding from the bottom, significant changes in bowel habit, unexplained pain or weight loss might all be signals.
Screening for colon cancer is recommended for those over the age of 50, and first off involves a poo sample to pick up blood from the bowel. It’s recommended that we get this checked with our doc every 2 years after turning 50, and a positive result might lead to a colonoscopy.
A colonoscopy will involve “preparing” the bowel (lowering fibre and drinking a prep solution) in the days beforehand so that things are flushed and cleared for the camera to get a good look. It’s important to follow this to the letter so the test can see what it needs to.
Most people getting this done experience no major pain or discomfort. If you’re nervous or would prefer to not be awake, you can talk to your doctor about a light anaesthetic for the procedure.
It’s usually standard to need someone to drive you home after the test, so get a colonoscopy buddy sorted.
Getting the family jewels checked is more common than most guys assume and is something that should never be avoided or delayed. A teste check with your doctor will involve a look at the sac/area, and then your doctor feeling each ball properly using a finger and thumb to pick up any swelling, shape change, lumps or other issues.
Further tests might include an ultrasound of the testicles – this involves some gel being applied to the scrotum and then an ultrasound probe being gently (don’t worry) moved over things to give an image of what’s going on in the exact same way pregnancy scans are done.
It’s recommended even young guys check their own balls regularly in the shower by gently moving one teste at a time between the thumb and fingers – any noticeable shape changes, lumps/bumps, swelling or pain should signal a trip to the doctor ASAP.
Testicle exams and ultrasound checks are done to check for signs of conditions like testicular cancer, benign/harmless lumps (which can be common), infections or other changes. If in doubt, get it checked out (regardless of age – testicular cancer affects young men the most.)
Feeling nervous about someone touching around down there or spreading gel over things is completely understandable. But things shouldn’t take long, and it can help to just zone out/concentrate on something else while it’s underway.
Your member should be pulled up out of the way and covered up so you’re not feeling like you’re lying there on display or too exposed. This should also take care of anxieties around accidentally/involuntarily getting hard by things being mucked around with down there (a common fear for blokes getting this done.)
Tell your doctor if you’re feeling embarrassed or worried and they’ll accommodate, and a chaperone can always be asked for if not already present.