Man Up: A New Hashtag Takes On Testicular Cancer

Metallica, Neil Patrick Harris, Ricky Gervais, and Hugh Jackman want all men to touch themselves. 

No, seriously. 

The #FeelingNuts social media campaign, a movement started by Check One Two based in the United Kingdom, tries to recreate the massive success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by encouraging people to snap a picture of themselves grabbing their crotch, post it to social media, and nominate friends and celebrities to do the same. 

And while the #FeelingNuts campaign has not quite reached the social media hysteria of the Ice Bucket Challenge, the website of Check One Two claims to have reached over 500 million people and that number is still slowly rising. 

Matt Ferstler, a testicular cancer survivor and founder of the Testicular Cancer Foundation, applauds the awareness that #FeelingNuts has raised, but believes that it has some flaws. 

“Of course it has a positive effect,” said Ferstler. “But here's the thing about that the #FeelingNuts, Hugh Jackman picked it up from the UK and it all started over in the UK and it's died off pretty quickly and the reason why it's died off pretty quickly in my mind, this is my opinion, it wasn't engaging enough for males and females.”

The National Cancer Institute defines testicular cancer as “cancer that forms in tissues of one or both testicles. Most testicular cancers begin in germ cells (cells that make sperm).”

Overall, the 5-year survival rate of testicular cancer is 95.3%. This statistic also makes it one of the most curable forms of cancer and only accounts for 0.1% of annual cancer deaths.

Testicular cancer is the 25th most common type of cancer overall and only accounts for 0.5% of all new cancer cases in the United States. 0.4% of men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer within their lifetime.

"It's the leading cause of cancer in guys ages 15 to 35,” said Mike Craycraft, a testicular cancer survivor and founder of the Testicular Cancer Society. This is also confirmed by the Testicular Cancer Foundation and Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation. 

It is estimated by the National Cancer Institute that there will be 8,820 new cases and 380 deaths in 2014.

Those numbers may seem small compared to pancreatic cancer, the most common form in the United States (estimated 233,000 new cases and 29,480 deaths in 2014), but considering how treatable testicular cancer is, it is arguably a couple hundred deaths too many.

Check One Two’s website claims it is “100% curable” if caught early. This may be an exaggeration, but not by much. The National Cancer Institute claims that if the cancer is diagnosed and treated at Stage I, the survival rate is 99.2%. 

Stage I or early-stage cancer, according to Cancer.net, is “a small cancer or tumor that has not grown deeply into nearby tissues and has not spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.”

But when one of those 4.7% that died from testicular cancer is somebody you love, that number does not seem so small.

Michael Muriett lost his son Justin at the young age of 19 from testicular cancer. This tragedy led him to join the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation as their Education Director. 

“That's my driving force behind it,” said Muriett. “To honor my son and make sure everything that he went through was not in vain.”

His job as Education Director is “to talk in schools, high schools, colleges, health fairs, different things like that,” said Muriett. 

On top of that, Muriett is assembling a national network of survivors that will help spread the message even further. Currently, he estimates that he has survivors in about 25 states. 

With the #FeelingNuts campaign and various testicular cancer awareness foundations, a lot of work has been done to reach men all across the world, but a lot still needs to be done to raise awareness.

A survey Craycraft and the Testicular Cancer Society conducted found that in Ohio and nationally 72% of men between the ages of 18 and 34 were not informed about testicular cancer by their parents, doctors, teachers, school nurses, or coaches.

“We also asked them if you know how to do a self-exam,” said Muriett. “Again both Ohio and nationally a little over 20% of guys said yes they do, the others said no or they're unsure. So there is a large need for awareness.”

That lack of knowledge spreads to the Saint Peter’s University campus too. 

Ricardo De Jesus and Alexander Tropel, two male Saint Peter’s University students, when asked about it, were almost entirely unaware of the dangers of testicular cancer because nobody ever talked to them about it.

A great resource for testicular cancer awareness is the Testicular Cancer Foundation website where there are videos, documentaries, and free educational brochures. Even more information can be found on the websites of the Testicular Cancer Society and the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation. 

Compared to other cancers, testicular cancer is easier to fight. You do not need to donate money, run in 5Ks, or pester your friends and family to sponsor you in walks. All you need to do to fight testicular cancer is take a few minutes once a month during your shower and grab your testicles.