If you have a partner with a penis, chances are you’re already pretty intimately acquainted with his equipment. This knowledge can be very beneficial in the bedroom, but it can also help his health and maybe even save his life. Taking a nature hike through his twig and berries can help you spot certain problems (maybe even before he does!) and then help him get medical attention.
This very important role might be a little harder than you think, says Dr. S. Adam Ramin, urologic surgeon and medical director of Urology Cancer Specialists in Los Angeles. “Female partners need to understand that men have a certain level of fear in regards to their genitalia and he will probably be deep in denial, preferring to take a ‘wait and see’ approach,” he explains. “But problems down there can be a very serious matter, especially if it’s something you haven’t seen or felt before, so you need to be upfront and direct. You can even offer to make the appointment for him.”
Want to make sure your man’s business stays in business for a long time? Here are eight penis problems you need to be on the lookout for:
1. A lump
Feeling a hard lump in your guy’s testicles can be a startling experience, but it’s usually not a big deal, Ramin assures. However, it does still need to be seen by a doctor because they are the only ones who can tell whether it’s in the epididymis (the duct behind the testes) and likely benign or attached and possibly cancer. “Testicular cancer is the most common type of cancer in men aged 18 to 35, and usually the first symptom is a lump,” he says. “But it’s very curable, especially when caught early.”
2. Pain when touched
It’s true that the penis is a very sensitive area (although contrary to popular belief, it’s not the most sensitive — that honor belongs to the inside of the nose) but he should be able to handle normal touching, washing and sexual activity without any pain. So if he yelps when you touch a certain spot, take note. Pain can be indicative of a wide range of issues, ranging from a urinary tract infection to sexual problems to a zit to STDs — and if it lasts more than a day or two, it definitely needs to get checked out, Ramin says.
3. Trouble peeing
If you notice your partner urinating a lot more or less than they used to, that can be a red flag. One day is nothing to worry about, but if the change lasts more than two weeks, it’s time to get it checked out. Often as men get older their prostate swells and will put pressure on the bladder. While this is normal, there are treatments for it, and he should be seen by a doctor to discuss it and rule out other issues. Less commonly, changes in urinary frequency can be a sign of cancer, multiple sclerosis (especially if he feels like he needs to pee but can’t), STDs, infections and other illnesses.
4. Erectile dysfunction
Yeah, I said it. The reason we have so many commercials for Viagra is very common, but since the penis is sort of the canary in the coal mine when it comes to men’s health, being unable to get or sustain an erection can be a sign of illness. Most worryingly, erectile dysfunction has been linked in multiple studies with heart disease and is considered an early warning sign of a heart attack. Best to get this one checked out, even if your guy is reluctant to talk about it or is embarrassed, Ramin says.
Googling images of genital warts, herpes and syphilis is not a pastime I recommend to anyone, yet it might be worth it to have at least a passing knowledge of what the different types of genital sores look like. (Just don’t do it at work or while you’re eating!) Many sexually transmitted diseases don’t show external symptoms — so just because you don’t see anything doesn’t mean he’s clean — but if you do see a sore, that is the number one warning sign of an STD and should be taken very seriously. It may be as harmless as an infected sweat gland or it could be a symptom of an illness that could damage your fertility and health for the rest of your life. So insist he gets whatever it is examined by a doctor before you do anything sexually (and that includes oral and hand jobs!).
Penises come in a wide variety of colors, but if you notice a change in your partner’s coloring or a spot that looks like a bruise, it could indicate a vascular problem. Most likely it is from a penile varicose vein, which generally doesn’t need treatment unless it bothers him, but it can signal heart disease or cancer in rare cases.
Pee and semen are the only things that should come out of a penis, but sometimes you may notice other types of discharge. Penile discharge can range from clear and watery to greenish to bloody, and all of it needs to be assessed by a doctor. The two most common causes of peen leakage are urinary tract infections and STDs, particularly gonorrhea and chlamydia.
8. Enlarged breasts
Men have breasts too, even though we don’t talk about them much. But if you notice your guy is developing “moobs” (i.e. man boobs) it can be a warning sign. At best he’s just put on a few pounds and it’s nothing the gym can’t fix, but at worst it can be an early sign of testicular cancer thanks to hormonal changes from the disease, Ramin says.