Penis and Testicle Conditions: Myths & Misconceptions
Unsurprisingly, given the private nature of our "private parts," myths and misconceptions about the penis and testicles abound.
While the internet has probably helped make more information available to more people than any other invention in history, it's also responsible for a great deal of misinformation.
Here are a few of the more common myths about penis and testicle conditions and the information needed to debunk them.
Myth: Testicular cancer is common.
Reality: Testicular cancer is not widely prevalent, accounting for less than 1 percent of male cancers, though it is the most common cancer in males ages 15 to 35. Despite its high profile in the form of public service announcements and high school locker room warning posters, testicular cancer is fairly uncommon.
According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 250 men develop the disease. The math converts to an estimated 9,470 cases expected for diagnosis in the United States, resulting in 440 deaths in 2021.
When you compare those figures to the 250,000 cases of prostate cancer predicted for diagnosis this year, testicular cancer occurs on a much smaller scale. However rare this form of cancer is, though, you should still take it seriously.
Myth: The penis has no bone, so you can't break it.
Reality: A penis fracture may not involve an actual bone, but it's nevertheless traumatic, dangerous and real.
Despite the abuse we put the penis through, and the amazing resilience of the organ, it's delicate in some ways.
A penis fracture usually occurs during over-enthusiastic sex or masturbation, or occasionally during sports or other physical activities. If an erect penis is suddenly and forcefully bent in the wrong direction, a thin sheath called the tunica albuginea can snap. If the trauma is forceful enough, it can cause ruptures in the corpus cavernosa, the tubes where blood is trapped during an erection. In as many as 38 percent of cases, the urethra ruptures.
The window for effective medical intervention is only 48 to 72 hours. So if you suspect a penis fracture—you'll feel intense, sudden pain, often experience bruising and swelling, sometimes hear an audible cracking sound and undergo rapid loss of erection (detumescence)—see a doctor immediately.
Myth: Premature ejaculation (PE) is a young man's problem.
Reality: While PE often affects less sexually experienced men, it becomes more prevalent in men over the age of 50.
Premature ejaculation is defined in a couple of ways: penetrative sex that lasts a minute or less from first sexual experience (lifelong PE) or when the ability to last declines to three minutes or less (acquired PE), along with certain other criteria.
While an estimated 1 in 3 men experiences PE at some point in his life, a 2013 Journal of Sexual Medicine study indicated acquired PE was more common in older men who experience erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular issues.
Myth: 'Blue balls' is a made-up condition invented by men to get sympathy sex.
Reality: Sustained increased blood flow to the genitals without release can cause a painful condition known as epididymal hypertension.
The increased blood flow temporarily trapped in the genitals during sexual stimulation is typically released and the tension relieved after orgasm. If a man doesn't ejaculate, blood may remain trapped in the genitals and dissipate slowly, leading to an aching, heavy discomfort. Relief is possible via orgasm or a warm bath.
Women can experience a variation of blue balls called "blue vulva" due to increased blood flow when they sustain sexual stimulation without orgasm.
When it comes to the penis and testicles, information about them is rife with inaccuracies, myth-making and plain old schoolyard nonsense.
The actual medical conditions that affect male genitals are many, but so are the misconceptions. Thus, it's necessary to be able to separate fact from fiction. With any luck, this little bit of myth-busting can help you better understand some conditions that are important.