Testicular cancer, which affects mainly younger men, is relatively rare. This form of cancer is the most easily treated of all tumors in the genitourinary system. Just a few decades ago, more than 90 percent of patients with certain types of testicular cancer did not survive five years. Today a majority of cases are curable.
Consider the incredible story of champion athlete Lance Armstrong. After being diagnosed with testicular cancer that spread to his brain, Lance underwent successful testicular and brain surgery, extensive chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Lance went on to set multiple world records by winning the Tour de France, a race that is arguably one of the most rigorous and demanding of any sporting event in the world, seven times!
Lance’s victories are a testament not only to his own incredible willpower but also to the result of a successful cancer treatment. Without the amazing advancements of modern medicine, none of his accomplishments would have been possible.
In most cases where surgery is required for testicular cancer, one of the two testes is removed. Cancer rarely affects both at the same time. The surviving testis will compensate by producing additional testosterone. Even if both testes have to be removed, normal masculine functioning can be preserved with testosterone injections, patches, or topical gels. These treatments maintain normal levels of testosterone.
Unlike prostate cancer, testicular cancer occurs mainly in men under forty. Regardless of your age, however, I strongly suggest that you examine your testicles monthly and feel for suspicious lumps (and educate your male children as well). Just as women (from teenage years on) need to examine their breasts for lumps to screen for breast cancer, men need to examine their testicles. The more often you examine yourself, the more familiar you will become with the structure of your testicles and the more equipped you will be to detect any abnormalities. The best time for self-examination is after a warm bath or shower when the scrotum is relaxed. Your testicles should feel like hard-boiled eggs without the shells: smooth and void of lumps.
Report anything suspicious to your physician for further evaluation.
Dudley S. Danoff, MD, FACS is the attending urologic surgeon and founder/president of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Tower Urology Group in Los Angeles, California. He is the author of Penis Power: The Ultimate Guide To Male Sexual Health (Del Monaco Press, 2011) and Superpotency (Warner Books).
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