Your teen son may not want to go to the doctor. But a doctor does need to check him yearly for hernias and other issues, as embarrassing as it may feel.
Every year, and before joining a sports team, your teenage son should see a doctor.
He may protest — hard. Boys typically do not like to be touched by a stranger, especially on their genitals.
But a doctor needs to examine his eyes, ears, nose, throat, mouth, abdomen, back, legs, arms, thyroid gland, penis, and testicles.
Why examine the genitals?
One big reason to examine the genitals is to check for what’s called an inguinal hernia, or a tumor.
In a hernia, part of the intestine has pushed down from the abdomen to the inside of the scrotum, the bag holding the testicles.
Your son may not know that this has occurred. While feeling inside the scrotal sac, the doctor can feel for signs of the intestine, especially if your son coughs at the same time. A hernia can be corrected with a scheduled surgery, if necessary. Left untreated, a hernia can produce intense pain, nausea, vomiting, and fever. At that point, it may require emergency surgery.
Tumors are growths that occur throughout the body, including the testicles. Although testicular tumors in adolescents are rare, it’s important to check for them and to learn how to examine yourself.
Basic health tests
Explain to your son that at the yearly visit he can talk to his doctor about changes linked to puberty, and the doctor will assess whether his body is developing within normal ranges. He may also need screening for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity.
In addition, this is a time for your son to receive information and ask questions about high-risk events teenage boys may experience, for example, drunk driving or blows to the head during sports or fighting.
Talk about sex
Your son may be grateful to have a place to talk about sex — without a parent present.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages physicians to talk about puberty and sexuality with teen patients during regular visits and when they are being seen for illness or injuries.
According to a 2020 AAP report drawing from earlier surveys, 39 percent of male high school students did not use a condom the last time they had sex, and 22 percent said they’d used alcohol or drugs before that sexual experience.
A doctor is in a good position to explain the risk of making a girl pregnant and giving or receiving a sexually transmitted disease, including HIV during sex with boys or girls (due to sharing needles with IV drug use). A doctor can discuss sexual consent and non-consent and using condoms.
The doctor’s visit is also an opportunity for referrals to get immunized, screened, and treated for sexually transmitted disease. If your son is giving or receiving anal sex, he can learn about how condoms and medication will protect him from HIV.
November 14, 2022
Janet O'Dell, RN