A testicular cancer charity has displayed the 'biggest balls in the UK' to kick off the awareness month for the condition.
The Robin Cancer Trust had the innovative idea to do this – not as an April Fool's joke – but to raise awareness of testicular cancer nationwide as part of its #TalkingBollocks campaign.
The unmissable image of the pair of testicles, with the words 'Have you checked yours this month?', has been displayed on Manchester's I LOVE MCR flagship billboard.
The Trust was founded by Toby Freeman, 32, after he tragically lost his brother Robin, aged just 24, to testicular cancer. The Freeman family promised him 'he would never just be a photograph on the wall' and that something good would be born from what happened to him.
The charity, along with some survivors of testicular cancer, including Joe Doyle, are taking over the billboard from April 1st to encourage people across the country to check their balls more regularly this Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, and every month, to help spot the signs early.
Freeman, Founder & CEO of The Robin Cancer Trust says, "Spreading awareness of testicular cancer in the most creative ways has always been our priority, so more people can see our messages.
"After seeing previous national campaigns on the billboard in Manchester I was obsessed with getting a pair of balls on there to encourage people to check their own, so we made it happen!"
Some 2,400 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer every year in the UK (more than 6 per day), with it being the most common cancer in men aged 15-45.
While it's a less common type of cancer generally, it's also one of the most curable forms of the disease, at 98%, making monthly self-checks all the more important.
In support of the #TalkingBollocks campaign, Joe Doyle, 22, a final year law student at the University of Warwick has shared his story. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer at just 19 in August 2019.
"A couple of months before my diagnosis there were irregularities on my left testicle, by the end it was very hard and enlarged," he said. "I was aware of checking myself before, which is actually why I spotted it in the first place, but I never said anything when I should because I was scared."
Doyle found it "difficult with the placement to ask people about it", though still managed to eventually bring it up to some, including his Mum, who encouraged him to get it checked.
He'd joined a GP in Warwick but as this happened when home in Manchester, he went to the walk-in centre. They originally thought he had epididymitis (caused by an STI or UTI), so sent him to the STI clinic for medication. However, luckily, one of the doctors there wasn’t convinced he'd been given the right diagnosis and sent him to a specialist clinic instead.
"They felt it and did some ultrasounds in that area," said Doyle. "They came to the conclusion that I needed to have an operation to have it removed so they could check it was cancer through a biopsy.
"After a week I got referred to The Christie in Manchester and started treatment. I had chemotherapy for 3-4 months, it was short but an intense few months and I lost all the hair on my body. I took between my first and second year out of university while I was having treatment."
Doyle is now keen to minimise the impact testicular cancer has on others as much as possible. "I know if it had been really pushed, it could have pushed me to go a bit earlier. If I had done it earlier, I probably would have had to spend less time in hospital," he said.
"It’s important for other people to know the same thing and not go through what I went through." Doyle is now just having check ups and is "perfectly fine".
Because of what happened to him, Doyle has had a lot of friends start checking themselves. "One of my friends found a lump in his testicle from my awareness. Luckily it was fine and was a cyst, but he only went and got it checked because of me encouraging it."
Doyle's words of encouragement to others are, "It is scary going to the doctor, but the longer you leave it the worse it’s going to be in the end, so you just have to dig in and do it. It’s better to do it early!"
The campaign is aimed at getting men to talk about their bollocks more openly in this way, to break down the stigma of doing so. Some 90% of men are more likely to check themselves after receiving the charity's awareness information, while 77% feel more confident to visit a doctor if they are worried about testicular cancer, The Robin Cancer Trust data shows.
The common symptoms of testicular cancer are lumps, hardness, swelling, pain and heaviness. It's important to seek medical help if you experience any of these signs – and to check your balls every month.
The charity's advice says the best time check your balls is during, or just after, a hot bath or shower, as this is when they are most relaxed, and much easier to check.
Read more: Men and cancer: How to spot the signs
Just follow these 5 steps:
Check one testicle at a time using both hands (it is normal for one testicle to be slightly bigger than the other)
Gently roll your testicle between your fingers and thumb (do not squeeze!)
Your Epididymis (sperm cord) is attached to your testicle and may feel tender when you are checking yourself
Feel for the signs & symptoms of testicular cancer (or anything not normal for you)
Repeat every month
"Don't let embarrassment kill you, don't be afraid to talk bollocks," the charity urges.
For a gentle monthly reminder to check your balls text BALLS to 70300 (standard network rates apply for your initial sign up text, after which all texts you receive from The Robin Cancer Trust are free).
For more information on testicular cancer, support and how to get involved with the campaign, visit The Robin Cancer Trust, and start #TalkingBollocks with others on social media.
And make sure you visit your GP if you have any signs or symptoms of testicular cancer as soon as possible.
Watch: Man decorates home with 'check your nuts' Christmas lights after beating testicular cancer