01 Apr Testicular cancer: what you need to know
According to the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program, almost half of the cases of testicular cancer cases are found in men aged 20-34. And almost 80% of cases occur before the age of 45 – this isn’t a form of cancer allocated to old age so the time to start getting to know your testicles is now.
While testicular cancer isn’t yet classified as a common form of cancer, it can affect you at any time of your life so it is best to be aware and be prepared.There are two types of testicular cancer. The most common is germ cell testicular cancer which is diagnosed in around 95% of all cases and which is broken down into seminomas and non-seminomas. Both these types of cancer respond well to chemotherapy and have an excellent survival rate. The less common types of testicular cancer are Leydig cell tumours, Sertoli cell tumours and lymphoma.
The good news about germ cell testicular cancer is that it has a 95.4% survival rate over five years if found early. The key word here is ‘early’. If you know the signs and what to look for, your prognosis is excellent.
Your first, best step towards staying safe is to check your testicles on a regular basis. Get to know them now, while they are healthy, so you can immediately identify any strange or unexpected lumps or changes in size or shape.
“It was just after my 30th birthday when I noticed a swelling in my testicle and, after watching and waiting for a few weeks, I realised was growing rapidly, so I went to see a urologist,” says David Scott (39), testicular cancer survivor.
One of the most common symptoms is the arrival of a painless lump, but sometimes the testicle can become swollen or grow bigger without any evidence of a lump. Pay attention to the size and shape of your testicles and to any other strange sensations you may feel in the area.
According to Cancer.org, some people get a heavy aching feeling around their scrotum area or lower belly. Another sign, although a rare one, is for a man’s breasts to grow and become increasingly sensitive thanks to a shift in hormone production. This is commonly found with the rarer forms of testicular cancer and should also warrant a visit to a doctor.
Of course, many of the symptoms of testicular cancer are the same as the symptoms of a testicle injury. If they have been hit, or have an inflammation or even if they have an infection, then they will likely cause you to feel the same levels of discomfort. However, it is always best to be safe rather than sorry. Especially with testicular cancer as the survival rate is so good if it is caught and treated promptly.
For David Scott, testicular cancer led him along a life-changing road, a journey into the world of cancer and out the other side. He refused to see it as a death sentence and instead used it as an opportunity to change the way he approached his life, and his diet.
“Going through the journey itself, I would say I was very fortunate as I am young and healthy. I did have some bad habits – the typical South African ones of binge drinking and occasional smoking – but those are now gone. Now I’ve become an athlete and pay a lot of attention to my health,” he concludes. “Focus on your diet and be as healthy as possible, and get over the experience emotionally. Stay away from negative people and harmful substances and bring it all down into bite-sized chunks you can manage. It is a mountain that can be climbed, and learned from.”