April is Testicular Awareness Month and the WSA wants to share important information with our fathers, sons, brothers, husbands, and other men in our lives. We are the WOMEN Survivors Alliance, but we care about our guys, too!
Middle Tennessee State University community and public health student and WSA intern Tiara Boston did some research for us on this very important topic that all men need to know. Sometimes it is up to us to make sure they take care of their health, so please share with the men in your lives. We all have to help each other!
According to the Mayo Clinic, testicular cancer occurs in the testicles (testes), which are located inside the scrotum, a loose bag of skin underneath the penis. The testicles produce male sex hormones and sperm for reproduction. Unlike other types of cancer, testicular cancer is rare. It is very common in American males between the ages of 15 and 35.
Signs and symptoms
The signs and symptoms of testicular cancer include:
- A lump or enlargement in either testicle
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- A dull ache in the abdomen or groin
- A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
- Pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum
- Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts
- Back pain
Doctors aren’t certain to what causes testicular cancer but they do know that testicular cancer occurs when healthy cells in testicle become altered. Healthy cells grow and divide in an orderly way to keep your body functioning normally. But sometimes some cells develop abnormalities, causing this growth to get out of control — these cancer cells continue dividing even when new cells aren’t needed. The accumulating cells form a mass in the testicle. Nearly all testicular cancers begin in the germ cells — the cells in the testicles that produce immature sperm. What causes germ cells to become abnormal and develop into cancer isn’t known.
Factors that may increase your risk of testicular cancer include:
- An undescended testicle (cryptorchidism). One of the main risk factors for testicular cancer is a condition called cryptorchidism, or undescended testicle(s). This means that one or both testicles fail to move from the abdomen (belly) into the scrotum before birth. Males with cryptorchidism are several times more likely to get testicular cancer than those with normally descended testicles.
- Abnormal testicle development. Conditions that cause testicles to develop abnormally, such as Klinefelter’s syndrome, may increase your risk of testicular cancer.
- Family history. If family members have had testicular cancer, you may have an increased risk.
- Testicular cancer affects teens and younger men, particularly those between ages 15 and 35. However, it can occur at any age.
- Testicular cancer is more common in white men than in black men.
Tiara got a chance to interview a testicular cancer survivor, Mr. Raymond Whitt. Mr. Whitt was diagnosed December 16, 1992. He is a 25-year survivor and we had a chance to ask him a few questions about his journey.
Tiara: How did you know you had testicular cancer?
Mr. Whitt: Well, before I had cancer I got regular check-ups with my neurologist because my father had testicular cancer. He said that it could be passed down from generation to generation. One day I felt swollen in the testicular area. It didn’t hurt, I just felt a lump in one of them. I went back to the neurologist right before Christmas that year since I was going regularly and he told me that they were going to take a biopsy. I asked, “How long is this going to take?” They said “We’ll we have to open you up.” I said, “Well, can’t this wait until after the holidays?” He told me I may not have until after the holidays. I had surgery the very next day and that’s when they found the cancer.
Tiara: What type of cancer did you have and what stage was it?
Mr. Whitt: I had testicular cancer and it was contained in the right testicle, so they just removed the testicle.
Tiara: What treatment did you have?
Mr. Whitt: The treatment I had was 3 weeks of radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses high-powered energy beams, such as X-rays, to kill cancer cells. During radiation therapy, you’re positioned on a table and a large machine moves around you, aiming the energy beams at precise points on your body.
Tiara: How has it impacted your life?
Mr. Whitt: For the first 10 years, I didn’t have any problems. Everything was just normal. If I had to do it all over again I wouldn’t do the radiation. The radiation caused nodules on the right side of my thyroid and I had the right side of my thyroid removed.
Tiara: What words of wisdom he might have for newly diagnosed?
Mr. Whitt: I suggest that all men go to the doctor. We (men) don’t like to go to the doctor for some odd reason. We always wait until something bad is happening instead of checking before the problem happens or it’s too late to fix the problem. Just make sure you get check-ups on a regular basis so you can make sure everything is okay before it’s too late.
Source: Mayo Clinic. www.mayoclinic.org. Accessed April 14, 2017.