This story was first published on December 18, 2013
Circulating message claims that if a man takes a pregnancy test and gets a positive result, it means he most likely has testicular cancer.
A home pregnancy test may indicate testicular cancer in a small minority of men that have the disease. However, a man could have testicular cancer even if the pregnancy test gives a negative result. Thus, the test is certainly not a reliable method of screening for testicular cancer. Indeed, relying on such a screening method could prove fatal.
According to a message circulating via social media, if a man takes a pregnancy test and gets a positive result, it means he most likely has testicular cancer.
The claim has some basis in fact but could be dangerously misleading if taken too seriously.
Home pregnancy tests work by detecting the hormone Beta-HCG, which is produced by cells in the placenta during pregnancy. Some testicular cancer tumours – and other types of tumours – also excrete Beta-HCG. Thus, a home pregnancy test could indeed indicate testicular cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, the problem is that only a small minority of men with testicular cancer will have high enough levels of the hormone to be detected by a home pregnancy test. Therefore, a man could still have testicular cancer even if a pregnancy test provided a negative result. And, some non-cancerous conditions can also give positive results for Beta-HCG.
Thus, online comments that suggest that men should regularly perform pregnancy tests as a way of screening for testicular cancer are ill-founded and potentially dangerous.
The American Cancer Society advises that men should see a doctor straight away if they find a lump on a testicle or if a testicle is swollen or larger than normal. The ACS has detailed information about detecting methods and testicular examination techniques on its website.
The message is likely derived from a 2012 incident in which a male Reddit user posted a cartoon about using an old pregnancy test just for fun and was surprised when the result came back positive. Another Reddit user suggested that the positive result might indicate testicular cancer and that he should see a doctor. Later posts by the man’s friend revealed that the man did have a small tumour.