Whether you’re a guy, or you have a man in your life, this is one article you need to read. We’ve got the low down on diagnosing, treating and recovering from testicular cancer, as well as the 60-second check that could save you or your mans life.
What is Testicular Cancer?
According to the Testicular Cancer Foundation, testicular cancer is developed in the sperm-producing cells known as germ cells. The two main germ cell tumors in men are Seminoma and Non-Seminoma, both of which originate in the testis.
These Germ Cell tumors in men can start in several parts of the body, including:
- The testicles
- The back of the abdomen near the spine (retroperitoneum)
- The central portion for the chest between the lungs (mediastinum)
- The lower spine
- A small gland in the brain the pineal gland, although it’s extremely rare
Testicular Cancer is the most common cancer in males age 15-34. Although it’s one of the more common cancers, it’s also one of the most treatable. With a 99% survival rate when caught early, being on-top of, honest and open about your health is extremely important and can save a life.
What Are the Warning Signs?
The most common signs of testicular cancer are lumps, swelling and/or pain in a testicle or in your scrotum. Usually, lumps are painless or mildly uncomfortable. Swelling or enlargement of a testicle or your scrotum can happen without a lump present, so if you’re experiencing something out of the ordinary, consult with a urologist or family doctor immediately.
Urologist Dr. Anand Shridharani agrees that speaking up and seeking help is crucial. “I recommend getting any testicular lump evaluated. There are many lumps that are caused by benign causes but some cancerous masses can progress fast and spread beyond the testis if not evaluated by a healthcare provider.”
So now that we know what to look for and the importance of early detection, we need to know the most effective way to check for and monitor these symptoms.
How Do I Check for the Symptoms?
The easiest and most effective way to check for testicular cancer is quite literally in your own hands. A self-exam takes less than 60 seconds and can be done in the shower during your daily routine. The steps are very simple:
- Check one testicle at a time
- Hold the testicle between your thumb and fingers of both hands and roll it gently between your fingers.
- If you notice any of these symptoms, see a urologist right away.
- Changes in size, shape, or consistency.
- Hard lumps.
- Smooth or rounded bumps.
So now what? You have noticed one of the symptoms listed above and have consulted your urologist. You probably have a million and one questions. What are the next steps? What will my life be like from now on? There are many different paths for everyone battling testicular cancer, but the statistics when the cancer is caught early are favorable.
What are the Next Steps?
Prevention is always better than cure, and there’s plenty you can do nutritionally to help reduce your risk of developing testicular cancer.
Providing your body with the right nutrients will promote healthy cell production and replication and may help prevent the changes to testicular cells that can trigger the onset of cancer. Antioxidants help fight nasty free radicals that can cause damage to cells. It’s also important to support the immune system to ensure it has the strength to recognise and destroy rogue cells before they develop into cancer.
That said, if you suspect you may have testicular cancer, it’s vital to seek medical treatment.
Treatments for testicular cancer can vary. The stage of the cancer, whether it’s spread to other parts of the body, tumor size, family history, and personal medical history all affect how treatment is approached. It’s important to mention again that the sooner you start working with a doctor, the easier your treatment and recovery (as well as your chances of survival) are likely to be. With that being said, a urologist will recommend one or more of these treatment options:
Surgery: Surgery to remove the affected testicle, and sometimes some of the lymph nodes (orchiectomy), is typically the first step in this process. Lab tests will determine the type and stage of the cancer at hand and will be the indicator to determine if further treatments are necessary.
Radiation:External radiation directs the high-energy X-rays towards the cancer cells from outside the body. Internal radiation delivers the X-rays directly into or near the cancer.
Chemotherapy: Powerful, cancer-killing drugs are used to stop the cancer from growing, either by killing the cancer cells completely, or stopping them from dividing.
What is Life After Treatment Like?
Testicular Cancer affects millions every year. The good news is that early detection combined with optimistic prognosis in many cases allows for a positive outlook on life after surgery and treatment. In a recent interview, Dr. Michael Herman, the director of urologic oncology at South Nassau Communities Hospital, said “Luckily, almost all men with testicular cancer can be cured, so most men can be reassured their prognosis is excellent. It is also very reassuring that most men do not have any long-term problems with sexual or reproductive health, so it’s important to talk about those things starting with the first visit.”
It’s Up To You, Men!
Although testicular cancer is very common amongst men, it’s not widely talked about. During the month of April, which is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, Tommy John is teaming up with the Testicular Cancer Foundation for the 4th year in a row to help spread awareness about this disease and continue “supporting” men in more ways than one.
Not only are they spreading the word, Tommy John is also donating 5% of sales of their limited edition underwear prints to help fund research and care for testicular cancer. Check the out here.
So to all the men in our lives, make sure to adopt a regular self-check. You, your loved ones and your body will thank you for it.
Tommy John Q&A with the Testicular Cancer Foundation
To further increase awareness and understanding of testicular cancer, Tommy John Underwear recently interviewed the Testicular Cancer Foundation. They ask the tricky questions about treatment options and recovery, as well as life (and sex) after testicular cancer.
Q: We talk a lot about early detection and the time leading up to surgery, but what does the post-surgery and recovery process look like to most patients?
A:When Testicular Cancer is caught early, the surgery (inguinal orchiectomy) to remove the cancerous testicle can be minimally invasive. Generally speaking the patient returns home the same day of surgery and recovery time is rather short. This is why early detection is crucial. A simple surgery and the patient is back to daily life. When testicular cancer metastasizes not only do your chances of survival decrease, but more invasive surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are likely to follow - all of which have their own risks and side effects.
Q: What type of lifestyle changes do survivors need to make post-surgery/treatment (diet, exercise, work, etc.)?
A: We urge men to be advocates for their own health. This includes living a healthy lifestyle - a well-balanced diet and exercise. Additionally, we urge men to take their time and be patient when jumping back into work and daily life.
Q: How often do survivors follow-up with their doctors/oncologist/urologist after the surgery/treatment?
A: No one follows up regimen is appropriate for every TC survivor, but standard protocol would be a doctors visit every 3-6 months the first year, 6-12 month the 2nd and 3rd year, and annually for year four and five. Each of these visits would include some or all of the following tests; blood work, CT Scans, Chest X-rays and Testicular Ultrasound.
After having a testicular cancer diagnosis, there is a slightly higher risk for a re-occurrence of cancer, so survivors are advised to become advocates of their own health, and look for any changes they see/feel.
Q: What are some of the biggest difficulties that survivors face post-surgery and possible treatment?
A: Life after cancer can be one of the biggest struggles for some after a cancer diagnosis. This is another reason why we emphasize early detection. If caught in stage one, often there is no need for additional treatment which minimizes some of the struggles guys often face after surgery and additional treatment (additional surgery, chemotherapy, radiation).
Some TC survivors go through what can be an extremely traumatic experience, and after treatment are given the “all clear” from their doctor. They are then expected to jump back into daily life like nothing happened. For some, healing for both mind and body can take time, and we urge men struggling to discuss their options with their social worker or doctor.
We have found that there are high numbers of TC survivors that suffer from PTSD. Some men suffer from depression, feeling as if they have lost their “manhood”, and fear re-occurrence. Some men struggle with infertility as well. At TCF we have bolstered our support system to ensure that men have resources and support groups to deal with life after cancer.
 American Cancer Society. Key Statistics for Testicular Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/testicular-cancer/about/key-statistics.html