Your doctor diagnosed the “C” word: cancer. In your case, testicular cancer. But there’s another “C” word associated with this type of cancer: curable.
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Numbers don’t lie. Testicular cancer is treated successfully in 95 percent of cases. If treated early, that number rises to 98 percent. Although a man’s risk of getting it is 1 in 300, his chance of dying from the disease is only about 1 in 5,000.
Though any cancer diagnosis is serious, the prognosis for most men is very good. As with any cancer, early detection is always best for successful outcomes. For example, say you have a stage 1 seminoma — a tumor that grows slowly and stays within the testicle — our standard management is observing it with serial exams, blood work, chest X-rays and CT scans. The likelihood of a cure in this circumstance? Virtually 100 percent. Even metastatic testicular cancer is highly curable, typically with a combination of chemotherapy and surgery.
Testicular cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men ages 15 to 35. Young men between these ages should perform a monthly self-exam. The best place to do this in the shower, when the scrotal skin is loose and thin.
If you find a swelling or lump in either testicle or in your scrotum — or have pain, discomfort or a feeling of heaviness there — let your doctor know. Your doctor can determine what the problem is with ultrasound and other tests.
If it is cancer, you’ll need surgery to remove the affected testicle. Removing one testicle not just removes the cancer but allows us to find out what further treatment you’ll need, whether it’s simple surveillance, radiation or chemotherapy.
You only need one testicle to produce sperm and the male sex hormone testosterone … and only 1 to 2 percent of men with testis cancer get it in both testicles. And most testis cancer patients can have children because usually the opposite testicle makes a normal amount of sperm.
Ideally, you’ll catch the problem early and surveillance — careful watching and waiting — will be the post-operative plan. If you had a low-stage tumor the main time for recurrence of the cancer is in the first two years. If you go that long cancer-free, the risk of recurrence is extremely low, about 1 percent. As long as you’re diligent and keep the appointments with your doctor to keep an eye on it, you won’t run into trouble.
A cancer diagnosis is never a feel-good moment. But it’s important that you know that testicular cancer is one of the most treatable cancers out there.