Yesterday I had a patient, a lovely, polite, and sweet older man in his 60s. He said he was having prostate problems. “I was reading this magazine article and I became worried about it. I’m having symptoms down there like this article says and it said to get it checked. My prostate feels heavy.” He pulled out an article from some health magazine about prostate issues. I glanced at it and then looked at his recent prostate specific antigen (PSA) results. Within normal limits. I then ran down the list of questions. Does it feel like when you urinate, it lacks the same force it once did? Any blood in the urine? And so on.
He said no to all the questions. “Ok, sir. Please describe to me what you’re feeling,” I said.
He answered, “My prostate just feels heavy and it hurts when I sit on them.” Aha!
“Ok, sir”, I said. “Based on what you’re saying to me, I think we may be talking about your testicles, and not your prostate.” He looked at me quizzically. This called for a different approach. “With all due respect, sir, and not to be vulgar, I’m talking about your balls here.”
He laughed.”Yes, yes, my balls! That’s it.”
The article used a stupid frontal cross-section of the bladder, prostate, and urethra that made the prostate look like testicles and the urethra look like a penis. I got on the computer in the room, pulled up a simple image of the male reproductive and urinary systems, and gave him a quick lesson of his own anatomy. “I never knew any of that!” he exclaimed.
That’s one reason I love my job. I love educating people who want to learn. Here’s this 60-something year old man who just learned the difference between his prostate and his testicles. Besides what it says about the failure of our public ed system (I have a feeling sex ed wasn’t taught during his time in school), it’s things like this that make me feel like I’ve made a small but significant difference in someone’s life. Plus, I get to say “balls” in a professional manner. How many accountants get to do that?