Testicular cancer is when cancerous cells develop in the testicles. According to the American Cancer Society, it’s a relatively uncommon cancer. Only about 1 in 250 men (0.4 percent) will develop it at some point during their life.
You may have seen social media posts about using a home pregnancy test to detect testicular cancer. While this is technically possible, it’s not a medically sound way to test for cancer — and there are even some ways it can cause harm.
Keep reading to learn more about why people are using pregnancy tests for testicular cancer if there’s any truth to this method, and what to do if you suspect you may have testicular cancer.
Why are people using pregnancy tests for testicular cancer?
The use of a home pregnancy test to detect testicular cancer goes back to a social media post from several years ago. In it, the poster described his male friend’s positive pregnancy test.
Various comments urged the poster to tell his friend to see a doctor, as a positive pregnancy test in a male could be a sign of testicular cancer. After visiting a doctor, it did turn out that the test-taker had a small testicular tumor.
The rationale behind this is that testicular tumors can lead to an increase in a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG). This is the same hormone that’s detected by home pregnancy tests.
Therefore, if a male uses a home pregnancy test and receives a positive result, it means extra hCG has been detected in the urine.
However, this is in no way a diagnosis. It should prompt a doctor’s visit for further testing.
Can pregnancy tests actually detect testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer is associated with elevated levels of certain markers, including hCG. The common diagnostic tests for testicular cancer work to detect these markers in a person’s blood.
Cancer markers can also be present in urine. Because of this, it’s technically possible for a home pregnancy test to detect testicular cancer.
The idea of using a home pregnancy test to detect testicular cancer isn’t new. In fact, the use of a urine pregnancy test for testicular cancer screening has been reported as early as the mid-1980s.
Since then, various publications have mentioned using urine pregnancy tests as a screening method. This is particularly true when the materials and equipment aren’t on hand to do blood tests for hCG and other testicular cancer markers.
But it never became a widespread practice and for good reason (more on that below).
What are the potential downsides of using a pregnancy test to detect testicular cancer?
While it’s possible for a home pregnancy test to detect hCG levels related to testicular cancer, there are some very important drawbacks to know about using this testing method.
Let’s explore these in the context of both a negative and a positive test result.
A negative result on a home pregnancy test doesn’t mean you don’t have testicular cancer. This is because not all testicular cancers will produce elevated levels of hCG or other cancer markers.
It’s possible to have a testicular tumor and receive a negative result on a home pregnancy test. A negative home pregnancy test can provide a false sense of security, delaying diagnosis and treatment.
If you’re concerned about testicular cancer, it’s very important to see a doctor for screening, and not rely on the results of a home pregnancy test.
There are several things that can interfere with home pregnancy tests and lead to a false-positive result. Some examples include:
- protein in the urine (proteinuria)
- blood in the urine (hematuria)
- certain types of medications, such as:
- antiseizure medications
- anxiety medications
Getting a positive result on a home pregnancy test may cause unnecessary levels of stress, as well as unnecessary visits to your doctor.
It’s also important to point out that other types of cancer, such as those of the stomach and lung, have been documented to produce hCG. In this rare scenario, a positive result could indicate a type of cancer other than testicular cancer.
When to seek medical care
The outlook for testicular cancer improves with early diagnosis and treatment. Because of this, it’s very important to seek medical evaluation if you have any signs or symptoms of testicular cancer.
Some things to look out for include:
- a lump or swelling in your testicle, which is usually painless
- dull pain that’s localized to the lower abdomen or scrotum
- a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
Performing a testicular self-exam once a month can help you know what’s normal for your testicles. As such, it can help you identify any noticeable changes that may be associated with testicular cancer.
Home pregnancy tests are not a reliable way to detect testicular cancer. The idea came about because hCG — the hormone that’s detected on a pregnancy test — can be at elevated levels in testicular cancer.
However, not all testicular cancers produce increased levels of hCG, making a negative result misleading. On the other hand, the presence of blood or protein in the urine as well as the use of certain medications can lead to a false-positive result.
Overall, a home pregnancy test may not be useful for detecting testicular cancer. If you have symptoms of testicular cancer, it’s important to see a doctor for further testing rather than relying on a home pregnancy test.
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- Testicular cancer treatment (PDQ) – patient version. (2019).