Check your testicles
It’s important to regularly check your testicles from puberty onwards. Do this by holding your scrotum in the palm of your hand and use your fingers and thumb to feel each testicle. It’s often easier during or after a warm bath or shower. There are no rules for how often you should check. But doing this every few weeks or so will help you know what’s normal for you.
Your testicles can be slightly different in size, and one may hang lower than the other. If you notice any lumps, swellings or other changes, it’s really important to get it checked with a doctor. This can be due to something harmless like a cyst. But if it’s testicular cancer, an early diagnosis makes it much easier to treat.
Look out for lumps and bumps
It’s not just your testicles you should keep a check on. It’s important to look out for lumps, bumps or changes in other parts of your body too.
- Rashes, lumps or blisters around your genital area could be a sign of a skin condition or a possible sexually transmitted infection (STI). If it’s an STI, you may have other symptoms too, like discharge from your penis or pain when you pee. Get tested at a sexual health or genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinic, or talk to your GP.
- Keep a check on any moles. A new mole or change in size or shape of an existing mole can be a sign of melanoma skin cancer. Check with your GP if you’re worried. Rates of melanoma have grown faster in men than women, and it’s often diagnosed at a later stage.
- Although rare, it’s possible for men to develop breast cancer. Check with your GP if you notice a painless lump under the nipple, or in the nipple area.
Watch your weight
With obesity linked to so many health problems, it’s important to keep an eye on your weight. How much weight you carry around your middle is what matters the most. The best way to check this is to work out your waist to height ratio.
- Measure your waist circumference with a tape measure around your waist – this is usually just above your belly button.
- Measure your height in the same units (eg, centimetres or inches).
- If your waist circumference is more than half your height, you’re at increased risk of health problems.
Finding out your body mass index (BMI) is also a simple way of looking at whether you may be a healthy weight.
Check your pulse rate
Checking your pulse rate is an easy and simple DIY check of your heart. Here’s how to do it.
- Sit still for 5 to 10 minutes before you start.
- Lay one hand out, palm facing up.
- Place the first (index) and middle finger of the other hand on the inside of your wrist, at the base of your thumb. You should be able to feel your pulse.
- Look at a clock or set a timer for 60 seconds while you count your pulse. Or, you can keep count for 30 seconds and multiply the result by two.
Most adults have a resting pulse rate (or heart rate) of between 60 and 100 beats per minute. It may be lower if you do lots of exercise or take beta blocker medicines. Being faster or slower than this doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. But if it’s constantly fast or slow, or you’re also feeling faint, dizzy or very tired, see your GP.
When you check your pulse, you can also check if it feels regular or irregular. If it’s irregular, you may have an arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm). You should get this checked with your GP.
Look after your mental wellbeing
Mental wellbeing is just as important as physical health. It’s important to look after your mental health and know when to seek help from a professional. Nearly half of men admit to regularly feeling worried or low.
Try to keep aware of how you’re feeling, and know the signs of stress, burnout, anxiety and depression to look out for.
You can keep your own check on things by keeping a mood diary. There are many freely available online, or apps you can use on your phone.
Symptoms to look out for
The following are ‘red flag’ symptoms you should always look out for.
- Peeing more than normal, getting up at night to pee or other changes, like having a weaker flow. These are common signs of an enlarged prostate. This is a harmless but treatable problem. You can also get these symptoms with prostate cancer, so it’s important to get it checked out.
- A change in your bowel habits (diarrhoea or constipation), or having blood in your poo. There can be a simple explanation for this, like irritable bowel syndrome. But your doctor will want to rule out other causes, such as bowel cancer.
- An ongoing cough, or shortness of breath. A cough that’s been going on longer than a couple of months might signal asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or an infection. It’s also a symptom of lung cancer, so see a doctor if your cough isn’t shifting.