April is Testicular Cancer Awareness month
During the month, men are encouraged to learn the signs and symptoms and take steps to help reduce their risk through proactive self-examination. Testicular cancer is a disease that occurs when cancerous cells develop in the tissues of a testicle—the male sex glands. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men aged 15 to 35 and is usually curable. Testicular cancer is treated successfully in 95% of cases. If treated early, the cure rate rises to 98%. Although a man’s risk of getting it is 1 in 263, his chance of dying from the disease is only about 1 in 5,000.
Know the Signs and Symptoms
The most common symptom associated with Testicular Cancer is swelling or discomfort in the scrotum. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms, it’s best to consult with a health care provider:
- A painless lump or swelling in either testicle
- A change in how the testicle feels
- A dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin
- A sudden build-up of fluid in the scrotum
- Pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum
Non-Hispanic, white men are more likely to develop Testicular Cancer than any other racial group. Men with a family history of Testicular Cancer and/or men who are infertile are at the greatest risk. In addition, men who have had cancer themselves in one testicle are at increased risk of developing cancer in the other testicle.
Despite all of this, many men show no risk factors at all. This is why proactive self-examination is critical in helping detect testicular cancer at an early stage.
How to Perform a Self-Exam
First and foremost, a self-exam should be done monthly to be able to notice any changes as early as possible. Choose a time when the scrotum is relaxed, such as during/after a shower.
- Place an index and middle finger under the testicle with the thumb on top.
- Firmly but gently roll the testicle between the fingers.
- Examine testicles for changes in color, shape, or swelling.
- Contact a doctor immediately if you see any bumps, lumps, or other concerning changes.
The Testicular Cancer Society has an app called Ball Checker, that makes it easier for every guy to do a testicular self-exam. You can also get monthly text reminders, just text “selfexam” to 22999.
The three common ways to treat Testicular Cancer are Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery. The treatment recommended depends on the type of testicular cancer you have – whether it's a seminoma or a non-seminoma and the stage of your testicular cancer. The first treatment option for all cases of testicular cancer, whatever the stage, is to surgically remove the affected testicle which is called an orchidectomy.
Post-surgery most men return to normal activities after 2 to 3 weeks. However, some feel uncomfortable about the look or feel after surgery and opt to have an artificial testicle put in their scrotum. A big post-surgery concern for a lot of men is will they still have sexual function and the simple answer is yes. Chemotherapy can cause a temporary decrease in sexual desire and erectile function, but it usually comes back soon after the treatment is finished. If one testicle is removed this shouldn’t affect the ability to get an erection. For most men, it won’t affect their ability to have children either. But for some men, the remaining testicle might not work as well which could reduce fertility.
If both testicles are removed, there could be a loss in sexual desire, weight gain, and the inability to get an erection. In addition, there might be some noticeable body changes due to not being able to produce testosterone. Testosterone hormone replacement is an option used to help improve sexual desire, function, and masculine attributes.
Support for Fighters, Survivors, and Caregivers
If you are a Testicular Cancer survivor or are looking for ways to support and bring awareness about this disease, check out these organizations that provide educational resources, advocacy, and community events for survivors and their families.
Beers, Bro’s, and Balls
Beers, Bro’s, and Balls is a testicular cancer survivor’s happy hour sponsored by the Brady Urological Institute and the Ulman Foundation. Happy hours are held in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area. In addition, they have a group page on Facebook for anyone outside the DMV area.
One of the biggest challenges for testicular cancer survivors is a feeling of alienation, as most men with this disease do not know any other survivors. The group offers a chance for survivors and their families to mix and mingle, share their stories and ask questions of other survivors going through various stages of treatment.
TC Cancer.com is the world’s largest testicular cancer forum with over 11,000 members. Members can join topic threads like, “Just Diagnosed”, “Chemotherapy medications”, “Caregivers Space”, “2X Warriors - cancer in both testicles” and more.
The American Cancer Society has many resources that help support people with cancer – completely free of charge. You can also find a locator of local programs in your area to connect with fighters, survivors, caregivers, and more in your neighborhood.
The Testicular Cancer Society
The Testicular Cancer Society is a nonprofit, public charity that is committed to raising awareness and education for the most common form of cancer in men ages 15-35 and providing support for fighters, survivors, and caregivers. Through award-winning campaigns, TCS is not just increasing awareness but creating a culture of self-examination to increase the chances of early-stage diagnosis, when testicular cancer is almost 100% curable.