1. Patch Problems
You notice a reddish, velvety swath of skin on the shaft of your penis, just below the head. It could just be a little bit of chafed skin, you think. And you’re right. But if the patch isn’t painful or sensitive - and if you haven’t had sex recently, which would normally cause that kind of chafing - the red patch could be a sign of penile cancer, explains Dr Ryan Terlecki, a urologist at Wake Forest University’s Baptist Medical Centre. If the cancer is discovered early enough, a topical treatment or superficial surgery could take care of it. But if you wait too long, part—or all!—of your penis may have to be removed, Terlecki warns.
2. A Tight Fit
The skin at the head of your penis feels a little tight—like a shirt that shrank in the wash. You may also see some whitish spots in the same area. Whether or not you feel any pain, you could be dealing with something called lichen sclerosus - a skin condition that may be caused by a hormone or immune system imbalance, Dr. Terlecki says. You should especially be worried if you’re uncircumcised or feel like you have to push while you pee, he adds. If left untreated, lichen sclerosus could lead to cancer or a total blockage of your urinary tract, which will land you in the ER.
3. Watch the Curve
Your erection has always sported a gentle bend, but lately the curve seems to be more severe. If you also feel some hardness or firmness under the skin—like a dime or nickel lodged in your shaft—you could be dealing with Peyronie’s disease, explains Dr Joseph Sonstein of the University of Texas Medical Branch. Peyronie’s is a buildup of calcified scar tissue, he says. If left untreated it could lead to pain during sex, a more extreme penis curvature, and an increased risk for broken penis, Terlecki says. Treatment options depend on the severity of your case, but include enzyme or saline injections, or even surgery.
4. Blood in the Water
If you notice any blood in your urine, it could be a sign of kidney stones or an enlarged prostate. That said, “in the medical world, blood in the urine is cancer until proven otherwise,” Dr. Sonstein warns. If your urine seems fine, but you notice a small patch of blood in your boxers or underwear, don’t freak out. Instead, check you scrotum and shaft for little cherry- or blue-coloured spots, Dr. Terlecki suggests. If the spots are spread out and seem to be the source of the blood, they’re almost certainly angiokeratomas, which are harmless, he says. But if they're clustered together in a patch - and especially if that patch is itchy - you may be dealing with Paget’s disease, which will require surgical removal, Terlecki adds.
5. A Bumpy Stretch
For guys between ages 15 and 35, testicular cancer is the most common form of that disease, Sonstein says. The telltale signs are hard, painless masses or lumps on your balls. If caught early, 99 percent of cases are curable. And for that reason, Sonstein recommends giving your boys a thorough grope at least once a month to check for any abnormalities. A warm shower - when your testicles tend to hang well away from your body - is a great place to perform this self-exam.