From Patrick J. Ward, MD, PhD, Medical Oncologist and Hematologist
June 15, 2021
For reasons we do not yet know, the incidence of testicular cancer in the U.S. has been on the rise for several decades. Largely diagnosed in young and middle-aged men, the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 9,470 new cases of testicular cancer diagnosed this year.
Fortunately, the survival rate is 99% for testicular cancer that has not spread beyond the testicles. My colleagues and I recommend that young men in their 20s and 30s begin doing a monthly testicular self-exam to ensure that any cancer is caught early. It often presents as a lump but can be painless so it can go unnoticed.
When 24-year-old Kevin Deck did experience testicular pain, he found a lump upon self-examination. “I made an appointment with my primary care physician,” said Kevin. “At first, he alleviated some of my fear by telling me testicular cancer typically isn’t painful and treated me with antibiotics for infection. When my condition didn’t improve, he referred me to a urologist who ordered an ultrasound and blood work before diagnosing me with testicular cancer.”
After an orchiectomy, a surgery to remove a cancerous testicle, I met Kevin and ordered a CT scan which revealed that the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes in his abdomen. I recommended chemotherapy. Depending on the individual patient, we can treat testicular cancer with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination. Given Kevin’s age, I also discussed the potential impact his condition could have on his fertility. Removal of a testicle and the use of some chemotherapy and radiation drugs can negatively impact fertility. “While I don’t know yet if my cancer has affected my fertility, my wife and I are extremely grateful that OHC recommended banking my sperm for when the time comes that we are ready to have children,” said Kevin.
There are most likely environmental and genetic factors involved in the development of testicular cancer. Because the cause is unknown, there remains much research to be done. Scientists are studying DNA and chromosome changes to learn more about which genes are affected and how this might lead to testicular cancer.
This International Men’s Health Week, I hope to reinforce the message that testicular cancer is highly curable. Be sure to discuss any unusual symptoms with your healthcare provider. “Check yourself in the shower, and don’t be afraid to go to the doctor,” advised Kevin. “I’m lucky I didn’t ignore the pain I was having,” said Kevin. Kevin, whose recent scans in May were clear, reports that he feels excellent.
Top picture: Kevin and his wife Sarah are enjoying life as newlyweds.Comments (0)