Since the late 1970s women have been home testing to find out if they’re pregnant.
The telltale marker speaks volumes.
“Pregnancy tests work by picking up BETA HCG, which is a hormone made by women during pregnancy,” says Dr. Frank Rodriguez, oncologist on Lee Memorial Health System medical staff.
Meant for female use, the test has implications beyond what you’d expect for men. In fact, it’s possible that a man can test positive- but the results have nothing to do with a baby.
“BETA HCG is not normally made up by men, however with testicular cancer there can be a development of cells that are not normally growing or active in normal men. But as those cells become malignant they may revert back to some of the more primitive functions and they may make BETA HCG. So you can certainly have a positive pregnancy test as a man if you have testicular cancer that has HCG,” says Dr. Rodriguez.
There have been cases, as recent as last fall, when a man discovered his testicular cancer after taking a pregnancy test as a joke.
“At the hospital a lot of times if I have a testicular cancer patient I’ll order BETA HCG and they’ll run a pregnancy test and it will come back positive,” says Dr. Rodriguez.
While it may be positive indicator, using a pregnancy test as a cancer screener is getting negative reviews.
“If you’re a man and you’re between the ages of 17 and 35 it’s probably not a bad idea to do self testicular exams and if you find an abnormality or nodule certainly bring it up with your primary care doctor. Which I think, is a much more effective way of screening for cancer then buying pregnancy tests,” says Dr. Rodriguez.