Testicle talk with The OddBalls Foundation
Testicular cancer is not common, but it occurs most often in men and people with testicles aged 15-49. It’s one of the most curable forms of cancer, so spotting it early can make all the difference.
The OddBalls Foundation has made it their mission to raise awareness of this cancer. We spoke to the Foundation manager, Kieran Kelly, to get the lowdown on the signs of testicular cancer and learn about the important work of the charity.
Can you tell us how The OddBalls Foundation got started and the kind of work the organisation does?
In association with OddBalls Apparel, one of the UK’s biggest underwear brands, The OddBalls Foundation was established in 2015 to educate people about testicular cancer and drive the message into as many different communities as possible.
The OddBalls Foundation is proud to be the UK’s leading charity raising awareness of testicular cancer. As a charity, we educate people about testicular cancer and encourage regular self-checking to promote early diagnosis; ultimately, saving lives!
Why is it so important to be aware of testicular cancer and to check your balls regularly?
Testicular cancer is the most prominent cancer in men aged 15-49, with around 2,400 new cases in the UK every year, that's more than 6 every day. However, if detected early, testicular cancer is one of the most curable cancers.
What kind of changes, or symptoms, should people look out for when they check their balls?
It’s important to check yourself monthly, if not more frequently, so you can familiarise yourself with what feels normal for YOU and take the necessary steps if you do identify any change, no matter how small it may seem. Remember, everyone’s bodies are going to be different.
The 2 most common symptoms of testicular cancer are a lump or bumps on either of your testicles. These are usually pea sized, but they may differ. And a painless swelling of the testicle. It’s important to note that it’s normal for one testicle to be larger than the other anyway, that’s why it’s so important to familiarise yourself with what feels normal.
Other symptoms of testicular cancer are an increased firmness, dull aches or sharp pains that may come and go, or a feeling of heaviness.
No symptoms should ever be ignored so if you can’t describe your symptoms or something just doesn’t feel right or normal, please speak to a doctor and get things checked out. It’s always best to be safe than sorry!
You do a lot of work with university ambassadors, can you tell us a bit about this and why you particularly want young people to pay attention to your message?
The OddBalls Foundation’s main initiative to raise awareness of testicular cancer is through our University Ambassador Programme. We have 50 University Ambassadors across UK and Ireland, all from different ethnic backgrounds, with different genders and sexual orientations. Cancer does not discriminate, so being able to represent everybody is extremely important to us.
Our University Ambassadors are committed to delivering testicular cancer awareness sessions and workshops in schools, universities, and the workplace all over the UK and Ireland, as well as distributing our Check Yourself guides and hosting awareness or fundraising events.
We truly believe every contact counts and one conversation could potentially save a life. We are proud to be delivering over 1,000 awareness sessions, reaching more over 150,000 people each year!
Testicular cancer is unusual compared with other cancers as it tends to affect younger men; in fact, it is the most prominent cancer affecting men between the ages of 15 – 49. Having university students representing the charity is a powerful, relatable, and memorable way of starting the conversation and encouraging men to check themselves. We hope to start important conversations that stick with people for the rest of their lives.
In sexual health care we know that people carry a lot of embarrassment and stigma related to sex and our bodies.
Do you face similar problems in getting people to talk about testicles? How can we help people get past the shame and speak more about these areas of our bodies?
Yes, there is definitely a stigma associated with people talking about their testicles, it can be an awkward conversation for a lot of people, especially younger people. As a charity, we do our best to approach what is a sensitive subject in a reasonably light-hearted manner to help encourage conversations and give people a way of opening up about any concerns they may be experience.
Producing visually engaging and informative resources, like our ‘Check Yourself’ cushions, can also be a great way of getting past the stigma as they can promote conversations in public spaces.
Lastly, using social media as a tool to tackle the stigma is hugely important. Everyone is on social media nowadays so it’s an easy way to reach thousands of people in a way that isn’t confrontational and will hopefully spark up a conversation!