Testicular Cancer: What You Need to Know

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Do you know how many new cases of testicular cancer are diagnosed each year? Just over nine thousand. Surprised? You would think with that high of a number, we would be hearing about the disease more often. But many men have a tendency to feel embarrassed about the private nature of their diagnosis, and therefore will not speak about it as openly as they should. Unfortunately, this practice has created a stigma around testicular cancer which puts a limitation on awareness efforts and open dialog.

In an attempt to fight this stigma, here’s a breakdown of what you need to know about testicular cancer; from early warning signs to the after effects.

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testicular cancer

Symptoms

The majority of testicular cancer cases are first discovered by the affected men themselves. Testicular cancer can manifest in a variety of symptoms, but can also exhibit no symptoms whatsoever. Regular doctor visits and physical examinations can help make sure you’re getting checked out, and are also a benefit to your overall health.

The symptoms that do appear are fairly noticeable and should be immediately addressed.

Call your doctor immediately if you notice any of the following:

  • A lump (painless or otherwise) in a testicle
  • Swelling, enlarging, or discomfort in one or both testicles
  • A change in the way a testicle feels (this can be a sudden hardness or increase in weight)
  • Discomfort or aching in your groin, abdomen, or back
  • A collection of fluid in your scrotum

The best way to make sure you are able to notice these symptoms when they occur is to regularly perform Testicular Self-Examinations (TSEs). Ideally done once a month, TSEs will help you ensure that you can catch any potential symptoms as soon as they arise.

A TSE is best performed after a shower when your scrotum is warm and relaxed. In a standing position, gently place your middle and index fingers underneath your testicle with your thumb on top. Lightly roll your fingers around each testicle feeling for any of the above-mentioned irregularities.

If you do notice any changes or symptoms you should contact your doctor immediately. Testicular cancer has a 97% survival rate in cases of early detection.

Treatment

The most typical and effective treatment for testicular cancer is to have the affected testicle removed. If caught early enough, this may be all you need to become clean and clear. However, if the cancer has spread, you may need to have both testicles, and/or some of your lower abdominal lymph nodes removed. Only 5% of testicular cancer cases require the removal of both testicles.

If your cancer is in a more advanced stage, then there may be additional radiation and/or chemotherapy necessary before you are given a clean bill of health.

Life After Treatment

The best outcome of your treatment is, of course, being pronounced cancer free. However, there are a number of stressful side effects that men can experience as well.

Depression

Being diagnosed with any type of cancer, including testicular, can commonly cause feelings of depression and/or anxiety. These feelings can stem from the physical effects of treatment such as chemotherapy or the removal of a testicle, the fear of going through said treatments, or also the many personal, emotional, and financial aspects of battling cancer. There are a number of effective ways to combat these issues.

Staying active is important. Even something as minimal as yoga, or going for short walks can renew your energy and focus your mind on the positive. Workout apps like Aaptiv can be a great way to stay motivated and get yourself moving.

Related: Tricks for Fitness Motivation

Another way to fight off feelings of depression is to share your story. Whether you’re simply talking to your friends and family or attending support group meetings, it is imperative that you’re not keeping your feelings bottled up. Start a blog about your experience, or a podcast, anything that helps you express yourself and create a connection with others.

Sexual Health

Many questions surrounding a man’s sex life will emerge from a testicular cancer diagnosis. Fortunately, the impact of this disease on sexual health can be surprisingly minimal, and fairly easy to remedy.

The removal of a single testicle will not in itself affect your ability to get an erection. However, some radiation treatments – and chemotherapy to a lesser degree – can damage arteries and nerves in the surrounding area making it more difficult to get and/or sustain an erection. The good news here is that there are many erectile dysfunction medications on the market that will eliminate this issue, such as Sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra). Brands like Hims have even made this available online, so you can easily keep your sex life on track in the wake of TC treatment.

Infertility

The only instances of testicular cancer treatments guaranteed to result in sterilization are those where both testicles must be removed. Some chemotherapy treatments can also cause temporary or sometimes permanent damage to a man’s sperm quality.

If any part of you is hoping to one day father a child, then your best bet is to have some of your sperm frozen prior to beginning treatment. This is really a good idea no matter what your diagnosis. You never know what could happen, so preserving your fertility by way of a sperm bank is a great way to be prepared for any eventuality.

You Are Not Alone

Testicular cancer is a fight that most men are able to win. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. The physical, mental, and emotional effects of testicular cancer are serious issues that should be openly discussed and recognized. The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Nine thousand men will face this diagnosis each year. If you are one of them, make sure your voice is heard. If we can shatter the stigma, we can save lives.

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