Testicular cancer awareness can be a sensitive topic for men, however, it’s something we need to talk about openly. If we all encouraged the men in our lives to bring their concerns about their testicular health to the attention of their doctors sooner rather than later, we could reduce the number of lives taken from this disease greatly. Unfortunately, this is often difficult for many men due to the nature of discussing our genitals in society today. We need to reduce the “embarrassment” factor of this issue by demystifying the testicles.
Receiving a diagnosis of testicular cancer can feel like a personal attack on one’s manhood. But the truth is that it’s not different than having cancer anywhere else in the body. Testicular cancer has one of the highest survival rates of any cancer, with 99% of these cases being when detected in the early stages. The vast majority of men treated for testicular cancer go on to live happy and healthy lives. It’s time to encourage men to make an investment in their health.
There are not any known direct causes of testicular cancer, however, there are some known risk factors that may increase the chances of developing this cancer. For example, age plays a role, with most diagnoses occurring in young men aged 15-34 years old. White males seem to have the highest prevalence of testicular cancer. There does seem to be some genetic involvement, as it is more common in men with a family history of the disease (father or brother). Having an undescended testicle or abnormal growth of the testicles can also cause testicular cancer cells to form more easily. Lastly, those who have had cancer in one testicle previously, are at a higher risk of subsequently developing cancer in the other testicle.
The first and most common symptom that men experience is a lump felt on the testicle, which may or may not be painful. Some men don’t find a lump but notice that the testicle has become swollen or has changed in size or shape. Yet other men just experience a heaviness or aching feeling in the lower abdomen or scrotum area. In some rare cases, testicular cancer can cause men’s breasts to grow and become sore.
The best way to prevent testicular cancer from spreading is to conduct a monthly self-exam. Conducting a self-exam is a simple process that is best done in the shower when the scrotum is most relaxed. Start by holding one testicle at a time between your thumb and finger, gently rolling it around to feel for any changes, symptoms or signs that something is not right. Repeat this process with the other testicle.
When Testicular Cancer is caught early, surgery to remove the cancerous testicle can be minimally invasive and curative. Most patients return home the day of surgery and their recovery time is rather short, making early detection crucial. When testicular cancer metastasizes to other parts of the body, the chances of survival decrease and treatment will have to include more invasive surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and other treatments – all of which have their own risks and side effects.
Radical inguinal orchiectomy, or removal of the cancerous testicle, is the surgery most often used to treat testicular cancer. Depending on the type and stage of the cancer, further treatment may be necessary. For example, if lymph nodes in the abdomen need to be removed as well, a retroperitoneal lymph node dissection will be performed, at the same time or as a second operation. After surgery, and depending on what is found in the tissues, your doctor will advise whether radiation or chemotherapy are necessary as well.
Men should take time when recovering from surgery before jumping back into their work and daily life. Some survivors of this experience describe it as a traumatic one, even after being given the “all clear” from their doctor. They are expected to jump back into daily life as if nothing happened. For some, healing both mind and body, can take some time, as many of these survivors suffer from depression, fear of recurrence, sexual dysfunction, and infertility as well.
Taking time to heal mind, body and spirit is critical in the recovery process. Having a pair of underwear that fits properly and is comfortable can make recovery much more tolerable. Your doctor will monitor you in the months and years following recovery with blood tests, CT Scans, and Testicular Ultrasounds. As there is a risk for a recurrence, survivors are advised to take notice of their own health and to pay attention to any changes they can see or feel.
If you or someone you know is a survivor of testicular cancer, take a moment to learn about iThrive. At the Integrated Health Clinic, we take survivorship seriously. Anyone who has dealt with a cancer diagnosis wants to know that they are doing all they can to prevent a recurrence and to find their best definition of true health. This useful digital tool called iThrive allows people to do just that.
This year the men’s underwear brand Tommy John is celebrating its fifth year as a partner with the Testicular Cancer Foundation. This year they also invited Integrated Health Clinic into the fold, with the shared vision of testicular cancer awareness, prevention, and education.
Tommy John focuses on the comfort of a man’s most fundamental layers. By revolutionizing how we think about our closest layers, the company has disrupted the market with innovative products with unparalleled support. Because testicles, underwear and cancer education go hand in hand, the partnership between these three companies made perfect sense.
Contact us at the IHC Cancer Care Centre receptionist via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 604-888-8325, option #1.
Gurdev Parmar, BSc., ND