Should I get a prosthetic testicle?
May 11, 2009 3:18 PM   Subscribe

Should I get a prosthetic testicle?

I've just been diagnosed with testicular cancer and will have to undergo a radical orchiectomy very soon. I'm having a hard time dealing with all of this, to be honest. Like anyone in their right mind would, I suppose.

But one of the things my doctor suggested was to consider whether or not I wanted a prosthetic in its place. And honestly, I have NO idea. The psychological baggage here is incredibly weird, and it's distorting a lot of my thoughts.

My GF says she doesn't care either way, but suggests that it might be easier and simpler to get one popped in there while I'm already cut open rather than implanted later if I change my mind. Makes sense to me.

But on the other hand, the idea seems so ridiculous. What did Lance Armstrong do? I'm having a hard time focusing and making decisions right now, and this seems to be one I need to make first. Waht are your thoughts? Pros? Cons?
posted by chinese_fashion to Health & Fitness (44 answers total)
Sorry to hear your news. A friend of mine recently went through testicular cancer and opted for the prosthesis. He blogged about his diagnosis and treatment for several months -- in particular, he posted this about some of the pros and cons of implants.
Best of luck.
posted by katemonster at 3:28 PM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Go for it. I hate to say what have you got to lose, but that is the point of this question!
posted by parmanparman at 3:28 PM on May 11, 2009

That's a tough one!

-No uncomfortable questions with new sex partners or in the locker room
-If you're not thinking about it, it will feel more normal, more complete

-Something artificial is now in you
-Might feel weird in a different way, not having sensation from it

That's from my point of view of course. I would have a hard time deciding as well. I'm trying to live as naturally as possible, so I would probably decide not to. But then again, the other one would get lonely!
posted by dualityofmind at 3:30 PM on May 11, 2009

I think that I read somewhere that the scar tissue that forms from the operation is similar in shape and size to a testicle, making the need for a fake one non-existent. Maybe you could ask your doctor about this?
posted by elder18 at 3:32 PM on May 11, 2009

It is a solely visually thing, so for whose benefit is it? Your girlfriend doesn't care - do you care about the reaction of other potential sexual partners or the lockroom crowd? Are you okay with a daily reminder of this ordeal for the rest of your life? Which would be more of a reminder - lacking a testicle, or knowing that you had a foreign object in there?
posted by phrontist at 3:34 PM on May 11, 2009

Neuticles! Google that and you'll see what they look like for dogs and cats. I hope it will make you laugh a bit.

I would ask whet they're made of - if it's the same stuff they put into breast implants then it may change in consistency over time and/or may have long term effects. If it's just solid plastic it may be more stable but less natural feeling. That said, I'm no expert on breast implants, I just know what I read in the tabloids.

Honestly, this seems like one of those "talk to your doctor" questions. I can only assume that the fake testicle had to go through FDA testing so there must be some indication of long-term side effects, if any.

It comes down to a decision about feeling "normal" versus having something fairly "un-normal" in your body. Do you think feeling the absence of a testicle will remind you of the illness and your loss? Or will the presence of a fake testicle remind you?

Maybe you should read some stuff written by female breast cancer survivors who got implants after radical mastectomies. The good news is that you won't have to buy new clothes regardless of which way you decide to do things.

Good luck with your treatment and the operation.
posted by GuyZero at 3:43 PM on May 11, 2009

As someone who has lost a testicle (though thankfully not due to cancer), I must say that I haven't really had any problems not having a prosthesis. It certainly hasn't lead to 'uncomfortable questions' in the locker room. As far as sex partners go, it's really not that awkward. The first time I sleep with someone I'll usually tell them but it's never made things weird at all.

Really in the end, since everything still works just fine, I see it as a non-issue.

Prosthesis cons: You can't go to a Hallowe'en party dressed as Lance Armstrong and have your friends laugh hysterically while the other half of the party sees a relatively boring costume.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 3:46 PM on May 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Well as a girl, I wouldn't care at all if you only had the one. Eventually I'd notice and maybe ask about it but it's not like I'd care at all. I say skip it and don't have the worry of a foreign object implanted in your body. Hope the surgery goes well and that your recovery is swift.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 4:00 PM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just a personal opinion, but I'd have it put in. I think its the lesser of two evils. You'd have that constant reminder when there is one testicle missing. As far as having something foreign or artificial in you as dualityofmind and phronist says, I have two "pins" ( both 6 inches long)as they call them, screwed into my wrist from a bicycle accident about 8-9 years ago. The doctor told me at the time it might be better to leave them in than to remove them, so I did. I forget they're there sometimes, except for the airports of course. I realize this isn't even close to being the same situation as yours, but I don't find having the pins (something foreign) really bothersome. I would think having a singular testicle more a reminder (bothersome) of your loss, than having the artificial one in its place would, if that makes sense.

Also, maybe ask the doctor if you could have it removed later on ( if inserted now) if you wanted to instead of having it inserted later. Sort of reversing your current situation.

Just my two cents worth.

Good luck whatever you decide.
posted by Taurid at 4:14 PM on May 11, 2009

(I'm a girl, FWIW) If I were you I probably would. They are already in there fussing about with your man parts, so it would be much more of an ordeal later on if you decided you wanted one put in. And your current girlfriend doesn't care, but future partners (if there are any) would probably have questions. It would save uncomfortable questions.

Plus, not having to see a lopsided scrotum might help not forget exactly (because you're never going to forget), but mind less if you know what I mean. Out of sight out of mind, or in this case, IN sight out of mind.

I'm very sorry to hear about your cancer though! I really hope all goes well and you are doing okay.
posted by gwenlister at 4:20 PM on May 11, 2009

OKAY! when I said "if there are any" in regards to future partners I TOTALLY meant "if you don't end up with your current girlfriend forever", not that you wouldn't be with anyone again.

*face palm*
posted by gwenlister at 4:24 PM on May 11, 2009

Tough choice. I would probably opt to not have it mostly because it is a foreign object, like a breast implant, and is probably prone to long-term failure, breakage, scarring, god-knows-what. I don't see what it would do for you self-image-wise unless you hang out nude a lot.

Cancer sucks. I hope you recover swiftly & fully.
posted by chairface at 4:30 PM on May 11, 2009

How often do you get the chance to get a prosthetic testicle? I say go for it.
posted by box at 4:31 PM on May 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Both of the foreign objects in my body are there because I need them to see and because they were part of necessary medical procedures, so my pragmatism kicked in rather harder than yours probably is. That being said, I thought I would be weirded out having something implanted in my eye-- and I wasn't, at all. Once it's in there, it's pretty easy to not think about again, assuming it's not doing something horribly wrong.

I'm one of those "is the oven on omg is the oven on OMG THE OVEN MIGHT BE ON" people, too, so the fact that I never think about my lens implant or the buckle that holds my retina in place is pretty impressive. Your sense of self will adapt to the prosthetic if you choose to have it.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:40 PM on May 11, 2009

Yeah, you should get the neuticle. I'd get a third one put in there myself if they'd let me.

I realize there are psychological issues having to do with cancer, losing a ball, etc, but I think in the long run there isn't much chance you'll regret having the neuticle put in but there is a non-zero chance you'd regret NOT having it done.
posted by Justinian at 4:45 PM on May 11, 2009

Another female here:

I would definitely not have it put in. The disconnect between the way it looks and the way it feels (to you) would be annoying at best, creepy at worst. And although some say that the lone testicle will be a daily reminder of what you went through, I highly doubt that you'll go a day without thinking about it, anyway.

As for future partners - it sounds cliche, but do you really want to be with someone who cares that you have one testicle? Please. You had cancer, you went through hell, and there you will be.
posted by pintapicasso at 4:45 PM on May 11, 2009

I'm a guy. I'd say no, personally. Fuck it, man, when you have one nut, you have one nut. Not a big deal. Own it. You're a whole person regardless of nutcount.

Then again, if I could bump it up to three, I'd go for that. Three balls! Imagine the possibilities!
posted by kprincehouse at 4:52 PM on May 11, 2009 [6 favorites]

I'm a girl, but I'm still with fairytale of los angeles. I have a prosthetic chin (part of a cosmetic reconstruction from a more major maxilofacial surgery), and it's never caused me any problems - I forgot it was there almost immediately, and only think about it when it gets super cold out or I'm talking to someone about past surgical experiences. So I probably wouldn't worry too much about having a "foreign object" in your body, in that sense. Our bodies are amazingly adaptable, and I'd bet that you'll get used to the new sensation whatever you choose.
posted by you're a kitty! at 4:54 PM on May 11, 2009

I would think that no matter which option you choose, you're going to go through a period where you're relatively focused on it and things will feel weird, but then you'll get used to it and won't really think about it much one way or the other. If what you'd like to get used to is the thought/feel of having a prosthetic, then go for it; otherwise, I have to think you'd get used to having one testicle with relatively the same amount of time/ease.

Personally I don't think I would get one or encourage a partner to get one, but again, I doubt there's really a "wrong" decision here either way. Regardless, I'm sorry about your diagnosis and wish you all the best.
posted by DingoMutt at 4:54 PM on May 11, 2009

As a lady, noticing this kind of asymmetry on a guy wouldn't bother me. In a casual encounter, if I noticed but he hadn't mentioned it, I suppose I might talk about it with a girlfriend or two to try to guess the story. But I wouldn't ask the guy any questions about it unless we were becoming really close, and not because particularly tactful or prudish- I would just figure it was personal info that he'd tell me when he was ready. It certainly wouldn't make him less desirable as a partner.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:58 PM on May 11, 2009

Get one! Think of the bar bets you could win.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:06 PM on May 11, 2009

As a guy who's been there, and opted not to get a prosthesis:

1) My doc said they actually would do the operation to remove the cancerous testicle, let that heal, then do the implant in a separate procedure. That might depend on the doc. Ask yours about it; this gives you a chance to test out what it's like having only one.

2) Does your insurance cover the prosthesis? They might not. This may influence your decision.

3) You know how sometimes you sit down and get your balls jammed between your legs or otherwise crammed into a painful and awkward position, and have to adjust yourself? That has never happened to me since the operation.

4) Other than #3, it doesn't really feel awkward. It's a little weird having less of a handful down there sometimes, mostly due to lack of symmetry, but honestly it's not a showstopper.

Believe me, I know what you mean about the emotional baggage - I had less than 48 hours between diagnosis and surgery. Not much time to make these decisions. So, ask your doc if he'll do the implant after you're healed up. That way you don't have to decide now.
posted by CrayDrygu at 5:43 PM on May 11, 2009

I'm sorry you are going through all this.

I'm a woman. I would never care if a partner had a prosthetic testicle, one testicle, or whatever. It would not at all change how I thought about the guy's sexiness.

Here's something to think about and ask your doctor about: If you do not have one put in right away, and decide later to have one put in, would it be local or general anesthesia? If it would be general anesthesia, then I think you're better off making a somewhat conclusive decision before the surgery. I say this because there is some (small) risk with general anesthesia, so it's better to get two things done at once than one thing done at a time.
posted by Houstonian at 5:44 PM on May 11, 2009

Lots of first person stories here. It seems as if most of the guys opted not to get the prosthetic and are happy with their decision. This guy got a prosthetic that he thinks was worth it, although he does note that it doesn't feel really natural.
posted by maudlin at 5:46 PM on May 11, 2009

(Damn! Hit post instead of preview.)

Anyway, a second surgery would mean a little downtime, so it seems as if the easiest decision would be having just the necessary surgery now, and putting in a soft-solid or saline filled prosthetic (which are supposed to feel more natural) only if you feel that you really need it.

This must be a stressful time for you, so take care of yourself. Good luck!
posted by maudlin at 5:51 PM on May 11, 2009

Lost one myself 15 years ago. Girls haven't had a problem with it, nor have I gotten any awkward questions in the locker room.
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 6:13 PM on May 11, 2009

i'm a woman. i would care that my partner was healthy and still here. i would not care whether there was a missing testicle.

good wishes to you.
posted by micawber at 6:14 PM on May 11, 2009

As a teen, I remember seeing this photo (NSFW - OMG Nipples!) in one edition of the Whole Earth Catalog. A lot of it is the quality of the photograph and that tattoo, but the woman in the picture seems to have responded to her mastectomy by celebrating it rather the mourning it. As an adult, I suspect it went from mourning to celebration. Maybe that's an approach you might consider.

Were it me, my view would be "it's gone, let it go." so no implant.
posted by plinth at 6:18 PM on May 11, 2009

1. Every surgery, no matter how minor, carries a risk. If the prosthetic implant requires a second surgery, that's an additional (minor) risk.

2. Every foreign body implanted in yours carries a risk.

3. The prosthetic offers no utility or improvement to health, it's purely aesthetic. It will serve that small purpose only for you and the few others who see your balls.

4. If it's any thing like a breast implant, it'll feel wrong to whomever does happen to fondle your balls.

On balance, I'd opt not to get it.
posted by orthogonality at 6:18 PM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

As others have pointed out, there's no right answer, so the key is working out what you truly prefer. Perhaps try to catch yourself off guard - have someone ask you & answer impulsively, freewrite about it, flip a coin and note your emotional response to the outcome, meditate on it, etc - try to see what your real internal tendency is. Don't do what you think you should do or what you think is normal or other people would expect. Do what feels right for you.

And good luck with everything. Take care of yourself, and don't worry too much over this - it's no big deal either way, not necessary, not ridiculous. Whatever decision you make will be fine, and the important thing is getting rid of the cancer.
posted by mdn at 6:40 PM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

maudlin: "although he does note that it doesn't feel really natural."

In regards to sexual partners, if the prosthetic doesn't feel the same as the other one, that might be even *weirder* for a girl than just having one.
posted by radioamy at 7:09 PM on May 11, 2009

I'd opt for it.

I sold one of my testicles some twelve years ago for medical research.
When they cut me open, I had them place the fake one in. The amount paid didn't cover the cost of the implant, but it was a very reasonable out of pocket expense. I am completely happy with it. Nobody can tell at all...and in fact I completely forget about it, and only remember every blue moon. It is true that it weighs more, however it is only noticeable to me when I am naked and the scrotum is loose and floppy, but it isn't uncomfortable.

(makes me feel like a cyborg)

Get better, and bless you.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 7:14 PM on May 11, 2009

My GF says she doesn't care either way, but suggests that it might be easier and simpler to get one popped in there while I'm already cut open rather than implanted later if I change my mind.

She wants you to have it.
posted by rokusan at 7:22 PM on May 11, 2009

Wow. Thanks for so many answers, all of you. This is really, really helpful to me, and a good collection of links and ideas that I can refer back to later. I've written a little about the experience here for those of you that are either going through this yourselves or are interested.

Thanks again. This process is really weird and lonely at times, and reading this really helps.
posted by chinese_fashion at 7:36 PM on May 11, 2009

Good friend growing up born with one testicle. Had the implant. Very happy about it.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:25 PM on May 11, 2009

some say that the lone testicle will be a daily reminder of what you went through, I highly doubt that you'll go a day without thinking about it, anyway.

Absolutely this. No matter which you choose, you are going to remember often that you are a cancer survivor. So don't think of it as any kind of "reminder" either way. You won't need a reminder.

She wants you to have it.

Oh, I challenge that. It's not a good idea to try to mind-read. What your gf said is what I'd say to my partner: I don't care at all, but I'd prefer you to go through one surgery than two and you might as well.

I can only speak for myself with certainty, but in all my conversations with women friends about sex and men's bodies, the testicles tend not to be an object of strong preferences in any way other than that they're clean. Seriously, I can't imagine caring. People adapt to everything and anyone who's into you will have no real concerns here. This is for you, so do what you would like.
posted by Miko at 8:48 PM on May 11, 2009

As a doctor, if I were in your shoes I'd look at exactly as orthogonality has. Definitely would not do it, but of course, that factors in my own personal concerns regarding the potential aesthetic and psychiatric benefits of the prosthetic (which would be minimal to me but may be pronounced for you).
posted by drpynchon at 8:52 PM on May 11, 2009

I sold one of my testicles some twelve years ago for medical research.

What the what what now?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:57 PM on May 11, 2009 [6 favorites]

Interestingly, no. At this level, the market demands non-linear value. We go down to a single ball.

My brother had a nad out and decided not to get the prosthesis due mostly, I think, to his impulse to embrace the unexpected. FWIW he said the remaining nad centered itself rather quickly.
posted by mindsound at 9:37 PM on May 11, 2009

I'd only get one if was made of brass. Failing that, as a guy, I would skip it.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:10 AM on May 12, 2009

I'm a woman. I spent some time trying to think about situations in which it would matter to me and...nope. Can't think of one.

Furthermore (my apologies to go off topic, but that comment a ways up caught my attention), I don't believe you can sell a testicle.

I do hope you come to a decision you are comfortable with.
posted by Badmichelle at 9:46 AM on May 12, 2009

i>I say skip it and don't have the worry of a foreign object implanted in your body.

Yeah, that. It seems kind of a waste of effort to put something in there for no medical reason. To me. But only *you* know how much a missing testicle will affect your sense of self, and probably then only after living without one for a while. So, live without one for a while and see how you feel about it. If it seems important to you after that time, then put a replacement in. But doing it right away seems more than a little premature.
posted by mediareport at 9:18 PM on May 12, 2009

Thanks for all the input, guys. I ended up getting one, figuring it was an interesting conversation piece if nothing else, and fully covered by insurance.
posted by chinese_fashion at 9:45 AM on June 11, 2009

So, uh... how's it hangin'?
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:14 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

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