Time to Start Talking About Testicular Cancer

man cyclingWith more than 263,000 men living with testicular cancer, and approximately 9,000 new cases diagnosed annually, it is surprising that this disease is not discussed more often. While events in October are swathed in pink in recognition of breast cancer awareness, there is still a stigma attached to testicular cancer. Even with prominent athletes such as Lance Armstrong and Scott Hamilton having gone public with their diagnoses, men are uncomfortable talking about this disease and its prevention. The popularity of Movember which focuses on men’s health in November has helped to further the conversation; however, there is still much work needed to help bring a greater level of awareness. April has been designated as Testicular Cancer Awareness month which helps bring much-needed attention to a disease that is projected to afflict one in every 250 men each year.

While testicular cancer may be personal to discuss, the outlook on this disease is one worthy to be shared. Most commonly found in men between the ages of 15-44, testicular cancer has a 97% survival rate when diagnosed early. Testicular cancer occurs when germ cells experience abnormal growth in one or both of the testicles. If germ cells become cancerous, they multiply, forming a mass of cells called tumors that invade normal tissue. As testicular cancer can metastasize or spread to other parts of the body, it is imperative to identify and treat early.

The American Cancer Society recommends seeking immediate medical care if there is a lump or swelling in the testicles, abnormal breast growth or soreness or other signs of early puberty in boys. When testicular cancer has spread, other symptoms may include lower back pain, shortness of breath, chest pain or coughs, stomach pain or headaches and confusion.

There are many factors that may increase one’s risk of testicular cancer including an undescended testicle, also called cryptorchidism, where the testes form in the abdominal area during fetal development and descend into the scrotum prior to birth or Klinefelter syndrome which cause testicles to develop abnormally. Family history, age, and race may also increase the odds of developing testicular cancer. Most patients diagnosed with testicular cancer have the affected testicle(s) removed through a procedure called an orchiectomy. If cancer has spread, treatments such as chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy may be necessary.

The diagnosis of testicular cancer not only affects a man physically, but emotionally as well. Many men may feel their masculinity being threatened by both the diagnosis and any necessary treatments including the removal of a testicle. In most cases, sexual ability is not affected, which over time helps alleviate fears of sexual inadequacy caused by the disease.

For more information on testicular cancer or to find a provider near you, please visit rwjbh.org/medicalgroup and select find a doctor, where you can search by physician name, specialty or location.