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 retired pro football player Josh Bidwell. As a twenty-three-year-old punter for the Green Bay Packers, Josh was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive testicular cancer that spread throughout his body. He underwent successful testicular and lymph node surgery and a grueling four months of chemotherapy. Josh went on to play for the Green Bay Packers again, then for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Washington Redskins. Instead of resting on his laurels after retiring from the pros, Josh decided to give back by serving as assistant team chaplain for the Oregon University Ducks football team and starting his own foundation to benefit the Community Cancer Center in his home state of Oregon!
Josh’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 regularly 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.
Be sure to report anything suspicious to your physician for further evaluation.
Photo of Josh Bidwell by Oregon National Guard via Wikimedia Commons