Home pregnancy tests may detect men's cancer
November 8th, 2012
04:34 PM ET

Home pregnancy tests may detect men's cancer

If you've been near social media or on the Internet, you may be aware of the buzz over posts claiming a teenage boy took a home pregnancy test as a joke, received a positive result, and wound up being diagnosed with testicular cancer.

CNN interviewed a girl who identified herself as a friend of the 17-year-old, but was not able to independently confirm the posts.

However, it's true home pregnancy tests can detect some types of testicular cancer in men, experts say - but the tests would not be useful as a screening tool.

According to the American Cancer Society, pregnancy tests work by detecting a hormone called Beta-HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). Beta-HCG is produced by the cells of a woman's placenta during pregnancy, but is also excreted by some tumors "including some, but not all, testicular cancers," the cancer society says.

"At the time of diagnosis, only a small minority of men with testicular cancer have HCG levels high enough to be detected by a home urine pregnancy test," says Dr. Ted Gansler, director of medical content for the American Cancer Society, in a statement. "More sensitive blood tests for HCG with a lower cutoff level could detect a somewhat higher percentage, but several non-cancerous conditions can cause false positive results.

"Current evidence does not indicate that screening the general population of men with a urine test for HCG (or with urine or blood tests for any other tumor marker) can find testicular cancer early enough to reduce testicular cancer death rates," Gansler says.

Gansler told CNN in an e-mail that "much less often, some other cancers might cause a positive pregnancy test."  Medical journals have documented that both men and women patients with pancreas, lung, stomach or other cancers may have HCG levels high enough to cause a positive pregnancy test result, he says.

A lump on the testicle is the first sign of cancer, according to the cancer society, and men should see a doctor right away if one is found.

But even regular self-exams aren't recommended by the ACS because they have not been studied enough to show they reduce the death rate from testicular cancer. "Without that evidence, the American Cancer Society cannot make a recommendation on regular testicular self-exams for all men," the organization said. "But we do think men should decide for themselves whether or not to do regular exams."

soundoff (1,028 Responses)
  1. Elizabeth

    Learned this from an episode of ER 10+ years ago, lol.

    November 8, 2012 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • onlyaname

      i knew it!

      November 11, 2012 at 06:50 | Report abuse |
  2. Cando

    Poor guy. I've hear of blindness but not cancer. He should give it a rest.

    November 8, 2012 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • simms

      WOW what an insensitive remark.....let's hope you never get cancer !!!

      November 8, 2012 at 19:07 | Report abuse |
    • ??

      I thought it was hairy palms and nearsightedness, not blindness or cancer.

      November 12, 2012 at 17:11 | Report abuse |
  3. Mike

    lol lol lol lol lol Boy that was lol

    November 8, 2012 at 16:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. wftfffffff

    the internet rocks!

    November 8, 2012 at 17:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Phil Miyup

    I could use a testicular exam. Anyone want to help with that?

    November 8, 2012 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jdoe

      Your neighbor told me he's available.

      November 8, 2012 at 18:40 | Report abuse |
    • Podunk

      Your mom checked mine last night.

      November 9, 2012 at 10:24 | Report abuse |
  6. Liz

    How useless is this sentence?

    "CNN interviewed a girl who identified herself as a friend of the 17-year-old, but was not able to independently confirm the posts."

    November 8, 2012 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ORChuck

      What do you expect? Journalism?

      November 8, 2012 at 19:32 | Report abuse |
    • billster45

      Nothing wrong with that. It tells you CNN interviewed the girl. It also tells you that CNN did not know if the girl lied. You learn to read.

      November 9, 2012 at 09:35 | Report abuse |
    • MEGPIE

      That was actually funny.

      needed a really silly laugh

      November 9, 2012 at 12:54 | Report abuse |
  7. bhcg

    smoking too much weed will also increase your b-HCG and then that could cause spikes in other hormones like testosterone and estrogen. and then your balls shrink and you grow breasts

    November 8, 2012 at 18:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Yes, I Am

      My balls have shrunk. But, I haven't grown breasts, yet. How long until I get some breasts?

      November 8, 2012 at 22:11 | Report abuse |
    • Duck Duck Goose

      Yes, I Am: please use the medical term... chesticles...

      November 9, 2012 at 11:25 | Report abuse |
  8. Toby

    I tried this test about 10 times over a year or so. Always negitive. When I did bi-op I had a gleasen 9 prostate cancer....I would not rely on it.....

    November 8, 2012 at 18:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fan inverse

      Wrong organ, wrong type of cancer and wrong laboratory test. Perhaps you were thinking of PSA (prostate specific antigen)?

      November 8, 2012 at 19:50 | Report abuse |
    • "student"

      When I had heard of this about ten years ago it was in a medical class and in reference to prostate cancer. It was explained that there were not enough cases that would have the hormone level to produce a positive test, so it was unreliable as a predictor.

      November 9, 2012 at 09:31 | Report abuse |
  9. petroskies

    we are very curious , the test was anal test or mouth test, not offense but some special men like the sex for any tunnel they have in their body.

    November 8, 2012 at 20:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • PigBodine

      Indeed, you are curious.

      November 8, 2012 at 21:12 | Report abuse |
    • devin

      On the chance that you are not being flippant, home pregnancy tests measure the level of the hormone, beta-HCG, in urine (from a male or female).

      November 8, 2012 at 21:20 | Report abuse |
  10. Hawkeye Pierce

    Sounds like CNN is now passing off urban legends as news.

    November 8, 2012 at 21:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Penny Fawver

      It is true. But as they said the likely hood that man will produce the Hcg in a concentrate is rare to set of the home tests. We do use the blood test in the hospital however when they think a patient may have this type of cancer because the test will come back quicker than the other.

      November 12, 2012 at 13:01 | Report abuse |
  11. Scott

    I guess the former party of rich, white guys will now start funding planned parenthood again so they can get free cancer test :-)!!!!

    November 8, 2012 at 21:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Eric

      my test is already free because I have insurance... Actually have dual coverage.

      November 10, 2012 at 11:28 | Report abuse |
  12. bshea38

    Wow, I have known for more than 30 years that some testicular cancers produced b-HCG. Of course I'm a laboratory professional, but come on, CNN, this is ancient news! Maybe you should have asked Lance Armstrong................

    November 8, 2012 at 22:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. sloppy.joes

    Imagine what this guy must have thought when he saw the results as positive...

    November 8, 2012 at 23:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Borque

      I bet he went nuts.

      November 9, 2012 at 08:40 | Report abuse |
  14. USA

    WOW! : )

    November 9, 2012 at 03:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Mister James

    For those who are curious, this story is (I believe) the result of a discussion on reddit. A user submitted a comic that was intended to be humourous about having taken a pregnancy test left behind by a former girlfriend and being surprised to learn that he was "pregnant." Other users, through the comment thread, advised that he should seek medical attention and it was discovered that he had a small tumor. Because of his incredible luck in discovering it very early, it was considered highly treatable and I believe the gentleman in question now enjoys a very positive prognosis. The test wouldn't work for everyone, as the story above states, but he was lucky enough to be one of the ones it COULD help.

    November 9, 2012 at 04:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DB24

      Yes, Mister James, that is what I initially read as well. Now, if CNN would've presented THAT information, it would've made a better, more honest story! And the line about talking to the girl who knew nothing would've fit. LOL

      November 9, 2012 at 11:14 | Report abuse |
    • .

      What kind of dumbaz guy doesn't use protection properly (girlfriend needed a pregnancy test) and then uses a pregnancy test on himself when she dumps him? Sounds like quality genetic material there.

      November 12, 2012 at 17:22 | Report abuse |
  16. MrXmanXav

    Love seeing this on reddit about a week ago, then coming on CNN to see about how they view the situation.

    November 9, 2012 at 07:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. unowhoitsme

    Hum, did the pregnancy test lab corporation PAY Dr. Gupta to write this report? This country is so corrupt. No integrity. Always the mighty dollar at any cost. The truth...what's that?

    November 9, 2012 at 07:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ahayes

      Hi unowhoitsme, Dr. Sanjay Gupta did not write this post. Thanks. Ashley Hayes, CNN

      November 9, 2012 at 08:10 | Report abuse |
  18. angelsmom

    This story is absolutely true. Unfortunately, some men with testicular cancer do NOT get a lump in the testicles. My husband had extra-gonadal (meaning NOT in the gonads) germ cell tumor. His doctor always had him get pregnancy tests so they could check the level of HCG in his bloodstream.

    Extra-gonadal cancer is much more deadly than regular testicular cancer. It doesn't really make itself known until the cancer is pretty advanced. Who would ever dream of just regularly taking a pregnancy test, though? My husband might be alive today if it had been caught early.

    November 9, 2012 at 09:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lemon

      Sorry to hear about your husband. I too had extragonadal TC, and my level of BHCG was through the roof when i was first diagnosed, but that was because i had a huge tumor in my chest. Oddly enough when it recurred again a year after treatment the BHCG was normal. It took 2 high-dose chemo stem cell treatments and I am almost 5 years in remission. i think i was fortunate that is was seminoma, which is more treatable than non-seminoma.

      November 9, 2012 at 09:54 | Report abuse |
    • angelsmom

      Oh, Lemon, I am so glad you are OK. My husband's primary tumor was in the mediastinum also. I think that he had a non-seminoma. He had lots of chemo, then later he ended up with radiation therapy.

      You are only the second person I have ever communicated with who survived. God Bless You and I pray that you have a long and healthy life.

      November 9, 2012 at 12:02 | Report abuse |
    • Ash Cloud

      So sorry to hear about that. As a cancer survivor myself I can only say that cancer seems so evil in its own way. Test for this, test for that, negative results, and then you're gone.

      November 10, 2012 at 07:48 | Report abuse |
  19. smartaz

    If I want to get rid of it do I go to a cancer center or an abortion center?

    November 9, 2012 at 10:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. mach 1 man

    I'm a 22 year advance stage 4 testicular cancer survior and my BHCG was thur the roof, after 7 months of chemo and 2 bone marrow transplants, I'm doing great.

    November 9, 2012 at 11:45 | Report abuse | Reply

      Just want to say GOD BLESS YOU , and stay strong never give up .... Know you are not alone and that there are many out here keeping you in our prayers..... Proud you are willing too speak out and up and be a voice for those not able to speak due the severity of their illness.... THANK YOU ! A Mother of a son with testicular cancer.........................

      November 17, 2012 at 12:43 | Report abuse |
  21. Cindi

    Old story, but until science comes up with Star Trek's Dr. McCoy's medical tricorder, we can hope that all that money pharmaceutical companies are raking in with drugs like Viagra, maybe they can devote some serious money and time to more inexpensive home testing kits for different possible cancers and other disorders.

    November 10, 2012 at 16:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. .

    Lance Armstrong's tests are hormone positive for a different reason.

    November 12, 2012 at 17:15 | Report abuse | Reply

    To all, As a Mother of a Son who was diagnoised with Testicular Cance, all I have to say is,Do not think this is a joke. You have no idea the pain and suffering that goes along with this disease, the chemo drugs the operations the blood and platelette transfussions and the uncertinty of if you will live or die, never mind the Mental anguish of knowing you will never have children and never look or feel the same again, As for the young mans female friend , I applaude you for being their and being a cofidant for your friend , for I witnessed first hand how True Friends are the best Medicine for they can be of comfort and safe support for the one going through all the agony and not knowing what will be next....
    Maybe if more Young Men and OLDER take a look at their MANHOOD, every now and then and really look it may SAVE YOUR LIFE........ l

    November 17, 2012 at 12:34 | Report abuse | Reply
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