By: Eric Klein, MD
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Cancer isn’t something anyone wants to spend a lot of time thinking about, yet knowledge is power. When it comes to testicular cancer, acting early has huge implications.
Here are five things every man needs to know:
- Testicular cancer is very curable. While a cancer diagnosis is always serious, the good news about testicular cancer is that it 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 263, his chance of dying from the disease is only about 1 in 5,000.
- Early detection is especially important. 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.
- Men between ages 15-35 should do self-exams every month. The best place to do a monthly self-exam? In the shower. It’s easier to notice any potential problems in the shower, 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. He or she can determine what the problem is with ultrasound and other tests.
- Most men diagnosed with testicular cancer can still have children. Men diagnosed with testicular cancer need surgery to remove the affected testicle. This removes the cancer and allows us to find out if you need 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. Most testis cancer patients can have children because usually the opposite testicle makes a normal amount of sperm.
- In most cases, recurrence after testicular cancer is low. 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. If you’re diligent and keep the appointments with your doctor to keep an eye on it, you shouldn’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.