Tag Archives: men’s health

Can a Pregnancy Test Detect Testicular Cancer?

check lemonsA recent Facebook post claimed that a man took a pregnancy test and it came up positive. He thought it was funny but after mentioning it to a better informed friend, realized there may be something amiss. He went to his family doc and was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Is this legit? Apparently, yes. According to WebMD certain types of cancer produce hormones. There are several types of testicular cancer but some make hormones. One of these hormones can be hCG, the same hormone produced by embryotic tissue during pregnancy, which is detected by a pregnancy test.  Another type of marker is an enzyme called alpha-fetaprotein or AFP, which a pregnancy test may also detect. And some types of testicular cancers don’t produce any markers at all.

So if a man gets a positive result on a pregnancy test does it mean he definitely has testicular cancer? Not necessarily. HCG is not unique to males having testicular cancer. Other cancers can also produce this hormone. False positives are common too. More testing is definitely called for.

online-doctor-cancerAlthough testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer found in males between 15 and 34, it’s still relatively rare. There are only 5.4 cases per 100,000 men each year. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends against any routine testing for testicular cancer. Most testicular cancers are self-detected or found by a sex partner. There’s no evidence that regular self-exams or doctor exams catch these cancers any earlier. Even in advanced cases, the cure rates are high. Regardless of the stage, more than 90% of all newly diagnosed cases of testicular will be cured. If a lump of any size is detected, or things just don’t feel normal, get it checked out by a professional. Self-awareness is still the best way to know something is wrong. For more information about testicular cancer check out the resource here, here, here, and here.


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Fun Friday: Penis and Vagina Facts

Please enjoy these (rather sensational) facts about penises and vaginas. Happy Friday!


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Can You Break Your Penis?

Can you break your penis? This is a question I get a lot from the male students in my classes. Or maybe you remember that episode of Grey’s Anatomy featuring Dr. Sloan’s penile fracture? The simple answer is, yes, you can “break” your penis.

penis-insideThe penis technically isn’t broken but fractured by some kind of trauma to the penis when it is erect. When someone has an erection, the two tubes that run along each side of the urethra (corpus cavernosum) become engorged with blood to make the penis swell and grow in length. When someone “breaks” their penis it is due to a rupture in the lining of one of the tubes.

According to an article in Scientific American, penile fractures usually occur during regular vaginal sex with the woman on top, but it can happen in the missionary position or during sexual acrobatics. (Dr. Hunter Wessells tells a story of a patient who suffered a penile fracture after running across the room and trying to penetrate his wife with a flying leap.) If you hear a cracking or popping sound, experience severe pain in the penis, or see any bruising on the penis, seek medical attention immediately. You do not want to wait and see if it gets better. This can cause you to have a permanently deformed penis or erectile dysfunction. There are about 2,000 reported cases on a yearly basis, which means that the real number of cases is probably double to triple that amount due to underreporting (for obvious reasons).

P.S. The editor of this post does NOT suggest Googling images of ‘penile fracture’ or ‘broken penis’. Seriously, don’t. do. it.

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Too Fast or Two Slow – Premature or Delayed Ejaculation

sexual-dysfunction-manIf both partners are satisfied with the results, it really doesn’t matter how long sex lasts, right? It’s when one or both partners feels less than happy with the length of time sex takes that serious relationship problems can arise. According to Dr. Harry Fisch in his book The New Naked, the average time it takes a male to ejaculate from the moment of penetration to orgasm is about 7 minutes. Please note that most females need between 5 and 7 minutes. An astonishing 45 percent of men finish the sex act within 2 minutes!

Premature ejaculation is one of the most common types of sexual dysfunction affecting 20 to 30 percent of all men. It is defined as when a man ejaculates before or just after penetration, often with minimal sexual stimulation or within one minute. On the other end of the spectrum is delayed ejaculation. This is when the male is able to have an erection but not ejaculate even after prolonged intercourse.

Interestingly enough other research offers rather vague and minimally helpful information on the topic. However, Dr. Fisch pretty much points the primary cause of most ejaculatory dysfunction to one activity, MASTURBATION.

He clearly states that masturbation is a normal healthy activity for both males and females as long as it doesn’t cause dissatisfaction within the relationship. When men masturbate constantly they may develop what’s called idiosyncratic masturbation which means that they can only orgasm when they touch themselves in a very specific way. Or they are so attuned to masturbating to orgasm very quickly that more prolonged intercourse may be difficult. The first question he often asks men who come to him with ejaculatory problems is how often do they masturbate. Certainly there may be medical or psychological reasons as well, but an easy first step to tackling this problem could be as simple as to stop masturbating!

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Men, Sex, and Alcohol

alcoholHey guys, this one’s for you! Take those “beer goggles” off for a second so you can read this. Did you know that, although alcohol might be your go-to social lubricant, it actually won’t do much for your performance in the sack? You see, alcohol is a sexual depressant. Physiologically speaking, heavy alcohol consumption is likely to decrease sexual arousal, decrease intensity of orgasm, and make maintaining an erection more difficult. And if those weren’t enough, there’s also the fact that one’s judgement is impaired to the point of having riskier sex, often without protection, and with people one might not normally choose. Oh, and then there’s that law that says that someone can’t actually give legal consent while they’re under the influence, no matter how old they are.

If you’re going to drink and have sex, it is best to drink only a small amount. A small amount of alcohol can decrease inhibitions and give you more confidence in bed – all while you are able to maintain your faculties and good decision-making skills. Also, you should go into the drinking situation prepared, with a condom in your pocket or ready to use at home. Then, use it! And if the person you were going to have sex with is absolutely wasted, masturbate instead. Trust me on this one: it just might save you a stint in jail and a sexual assault record. Remember, a person can not consent (in the eyes of the law) if they are drunk.

As always, we’re Planned Parenthood, and we’re here.

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Male Fertility: What Can You Do?

Image via Lady-Comp

Image via Lady-Comp

There has been so much attention paid to good prenatal care for females, but what about the males? It’s pretty much taken for granted that he’s good to go with little forethought to the health of his sperm. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several things to consider.

If a male is able to ejaculate, he is most likely fertile. A single ejaculation contains about 15 million sperm per milliliter.

Normal sperm have oval heads containing the genetic material needed to reproduce and a long whiplike tail to propel it towards the egg. The more sperm produced with both parts in good order, the more likely he is to be fertile.

The sperm has a long way to go from the tip of the penis through the cervix and uterus and finally into the fallopian tube. If there are at least 40 percent of the sperm able to propel themselves, your motility is considered good and you are probably fertile.

Here are a few things recommended to increase your chances of producing healthy sperm.

Practice safer sex and get STD testing
Chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause sterility in both males and females. Before trying to conceive, both partners should be tested. Using condoms with new partners and checking their STD status can help prevent any unwanted surprises.

Protect your heart: protect your penis and testicles
Anything that is good for your heart is good for your fertility. Keep an eye on your weight. Overweight men have a 20 percent greater chance of being infertile as well as having an increased chance of heart disease and diabetes. If you smoke, stop. Just as smoking damages the blood vessels in your heart, it also damages the circulation to the penis and testicles. No news here, diet and exercise are an important key to a healthy heart, penis and testicles!

Manage stress
Stress can decrease sexual function and interfere with the hormones needed to produce sperm.

Keep cool
Sperm is sensitive to temperature and can be affected by things as simple as having a laptop on your lap for long periods of time, spending extended amounts of time on a bike or seated, or wearing tight underwear or athletic shorts. If these things are an essential part of your life, take frequent breaks.

For additional information, check out “Sex Matters”.

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Sexual Fluidity

Gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, queer, pansexual, bi-curious: what does it all mean and does it even matter? Starting back when Alfred Kinsey and his colleagues developed the Kinsey scale in 1948, people began to look at their sexuality in a broader, more fluid way. While many people self-identified as exclusively heterosexual (0 on the scale) or exclusively homosexual (6 on the scale) there were still numbers 1 through 5 if you didn’t feel you fit at one end of the continuum or the other. In 1978, Fritz Klein, the doctor who founded the American Institute of Bisexuality, devised a more complex method, with 21 possible combinations analyzing seven aspects of sexual orientation in people’s past, present and ideal lives.

Recent studies look at sexuality from a less restrictive perspective. Bisexuality, while often maligned by both anti-LGBT groups and LGBT groups themselves is now being looked at differently as well.

While past research believed women were more likely to experience sexual fluidity, men now have been shown to be nearly as fluid as their female counterparts.

The basic idea behind sexual fluidity is that many of us have a flexible erotic response which can lead to significant variability in who we fantasize about, or have sex with throughout our life span. In many past sex studies, people were told to pick one orientation, but when given the option of choosing more than one orientation if desired 35% of people identified as lesbians and 36% of those who identified as gay selected another identity as well. Also of interest was that 42% of lesbians and 31% of gay males had masturbated to images of the opposite gender. 9% of self-identified lesbians and 12% of gay males reported actually having sex with someone of the opposite gender during the past year!

Even larger percentages were reported with self-identified heterosexuals. 50% of straight females and 25% of straight males reported having at least some sexual attraction to someone of the same gender. 35% of straight females and 24% of straight males reported masturbating to same-sex fantasies. 2% of straight females and 9% of straight males actually had sex with someone of the same gender. This doesn’t even address people who are transgendered or questioning. (All data from this study.)

So what does all this mean? Basically, there are many ways to define sexual orientation and does it really have to be defined at all? How refreshing it would be if we could just be “people” who are attracted to other people with no shame, guilt or need to explain your attractions or fantasies.

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What We’re Reading via The New York Times

If you don’t follow The New York Times, you should. One of the reasons we love it is because they publish excellent and timely articles on health, and we sex educators rely on it to stay up on the latest news. It is a reliable and sound resource for us. Here are a few of our recommendations from the last month or so…

Searching for Sex, by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, January 25, 2015

If you’re fascinated by all things sex ed like I am, you MUST read this article. I’m not even going to prep you with a little introductory paragraph because I want you to be totally blown away. The article is a bit long so if you don’t have time now, bookmark it for later.

Medicating Women’s Feelings, by Julie Holland, February 28, 2015

There are lots of things our society doesn’t talk enough about and mental health tops the list, in my opinion. This article, written by an experienced psychiatrist, says enough is enough! She says, “The new, medicated normal is at odds with women’s dynamic biology; brain and body chemicals are meant to be in flux. By evolutionary design, we are hard-wired to be sensitive to our environments, empathic to our children’s needs and intuitive of our partners’ intentions. Women’s emotionality is a sign of health, not disease; it is a source of power. But we are under constant pressure to restrain our emotional lives.” I highy recommend this read…share the article, talk about it, reach out to a friend.

Two Strains of H.I.V. Cut Vastly Different Paths by Carl Zimmer, March 2, 2015

Two strains of HIV-2 have made it to gorillas from chimps, and it's created two rare strains, O and P.

Two strains of HIV-2 have made it to gorillas from chimps, and it’s created two rare strains, O and P, both of which have jumped to humans in Cameroon

We’ve posted many articles about HIV before, including this one the origin of HIV. What I like about Carl Zimmer’s article is that he retraces what we already knew about HIV’s origin, but helps us fill in the gaps by exposing us to new research. HIV-2 didn’t just take one giant leap from primate to human, IT TOOK NINE! HIV-1 was trickier to track down. Scientists have been sifting through chimpanzee and gorilla feces for years looking for answers and now they finally have definitive proof that they can use to reconstruct the path that HIV-1 took. It’s a very fascinating read so be sure to check it out!

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8 Ways to Protect Your Erection

signs-of-EDMany men are reluctant to address health issues until they affect their sex lives. Most males experience a problem getting or maintaining an erection sometime during their lives. While it may be more impactful to him than his partner, a partner as well as a relationship may also suffer if this becomes a regular occurrence. A recent Men’s Health article suggests several steps a male can take to help eliminate problems related to erectile dysfunction or premature

#1 Check your medicine cabinet. Certain antidepressants, blood pressure medications, even hair growth products all list erection problems as possible side effects. Even allergy or cold medicines may be a cause. Check all labels and especially be wary of meds with Sudafed.

#2 Leave your work at the office. Work-related stress is a common component of sexual dysfunction. Many males who are financially successful work long hours and have a difficult time separating work time from leisure time. Making time for exercise and sleep to help reduce stress.

#3 Get enough sleep. Try and get at least 6 hours a night, but 7 to 8 is even better. Sleep affects testosterone, dopamine, and serotonin levels. Getting 5 hours a night or less can affect testosterone levels even in young males.

#4 Brush your teeth. Studies have shown that many males with erectile dysfunction also have gum disease. As your teeth decay, your immune system attacks pathogens in your mouth. The bacteria then seeps into your bloodstream damaging blood vessels and blood flow. Add flossing and regular visits to the dentist to the list.

#5 Limit alcohol consumption. Having more than 2 daily drinks may affect a male’s ability to get an erection, his ability to sustain an erection, and the firmness of his erection. Even if your sexual functioning is the same for now, heaving drinkers often have sexual problems later in life.

#6 Stay faithful. Being unfaithful to a partner may cause guilt and anxiety to the extent that sexual functioning is affected. Anxiety halts the release of neurotransmitters in charge of stimulating an erection.

#7 Get your laptop off your lap. Laptops generate heat and exposure to extended heat can reduce testosterone and sperm production.

#8 Stop smoking. There is a direct relationship between smoking and erectile dysfunction. Nicotine in any form may damage the lining of blood vessels which affects the smooth muscle in the penis and inhibits blood flow.

Any type of life style change can be extremely difficult, but if most men realize simple changes can make their sex lives better, they will at least think about it!

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No Rules in the New Year – Body Positivity for Everyone

I tend to go back and forth on how I feel about all of the hoopla that surrounds New Year’s Eve & New Year’s Day. On the one hand, I really like champagne, silly hats, and black-eyed peas. But I’m a lot less keen on giant crowds, writing the date wrong for weeks, and I frankly dread the barrage of resolution-themed articles, stories and discussions.

Getting momentum to tackle projects that you want to take on is fabulous! When resolutions can help us do that, they’re great. But far too many of the approaches that pop up in January frame things as “You’re broken and rather horrid! Here’s how we can help you fix that.” Plus, these discussions often focus a lot on our bodies, and on how we can change them to pursue (generally unattainable) beauty ideals.

So this time of year makes me really appreciate the work that a lot of activists have put into body positivity projects. Accepting and loving our bodies as they are, today, is one of the kindest things we can do for ourselves.

There are a number of great galleries and sites out there, but here are some I’ve particularly appreciated. And though most of them have a specific focus, they’re each worth a look even if you don’t fit into their particular category. It’s reassuring to see people who look like us presented without a judgmental lens, but it’s often even more empowering to see a wide variety of bodies being embraced. Breaking down the rules for what’s “acceptable” and what’s not is something that helps us all.

*Note for anyone reading at work or with a nosy person sitting next to you – all galleries after the first one contain nudity, as does the video above.

  • Illustrated BMI Categories – a collection of images submitted by people in different BMI categories, to help give us a point of reference for what different weights and heights look like in reality
  • 4th Trimester Bodies – a photography project that explores the effects of motherhood on bodies
  • Breast Cancer Care – the Body Project – a poster campaign (and behind the scenes video, shown above) about cancer survivors reclaiming their bodies after mastectomy surgeries
  • Body Positivity for Guys – a tumblr with images, messages and posts for all male-identified, masculine-bodied, and/or masculine-presenting people.
  • Denise Jolly’s Be Beautiful Project – portraits and self-portraits that celebrate the parts of her body that have caused her shame, which she’s beginning to expand out to others
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