Battling Testicular Cancer
Though curable, testicular cancer is often ignored by men who have it.
"Those testicles that don't descend seem to be predisposed
for testicular cancer later in life," says Uzzo, adding that not every man
born with the condition will develop testicular cancer. "It gives us the
idea that these testicles are predisposed."
Testicular cancer usually manifests itself as a painless
swelling or a mass in the affected testicle. A man also may experience a dull
ache or the heavy feeling in the lower stomach, scrotum, or groin area, similar
to what Nass experienced. Treatment depends upon whether the disease has
migrated to other parts of the body.
"The first thing to do is remove the testicle and then
stage the patient with a chest X-ray and CAT scan to see if the cancer has
spread," Uzzo says.
To determine if lymph nodes are involved, surgery may be
required to remove them. The good news is that tumor cells are very sensitive
to chemotherapy and radiation, primarily because they divide and multiply so
quickly. That means that nearly all -- even advanced --testicular cancer is
The ACS reports that the cure rate for disease that is detected
early is approaching 100%, and 90% for testicular cancer of all stages (degrees
of spread) combined.
"It is one of the most eminently treatable types of cancers
we have," Uzzo says.
The case of Lance Armstrong is a good example. In 1996, the
world-class cyclist ignored early symptoms, including groin soreness. Before
long, however, he was suffering headaches, blurry vision, and coughing up
blood. A visit to his doctor revealed that testicular cancer had spread
throughout his body, including to his brain. Doctors gave the elite athlete
only a 50/50 chance of survival.
Nevertheless, he underwent an aggressive course of treatment:
surgery to remove the affected testicle and to debulk tumors in his brain, and
chemotherapy. A year later, Armstrong was pronounced cancer free.
Uzzo and others hope celebrity cases will not only alert young
men about testicular cancer but also convince them to begin performing
self-examination so they are familiar with the size and feeling of their
testicles and will be more likely to detect subtle, early changes. But if a
study done at the University of Hiddersfield in England and appearing in the
September 1999 issue of the European Journal of Cancer Care is any
measure, most men still don't know much about the signs, symptoms, or risks of
In the study, researchers found that an overwhelming majority
of the 203 male undergraduate and postgraduate students (20 to 45 years old)
interviewed about testicular cancer either were uninformed or misinformed about
the disease. More worrisome to researchers was the fact that only one man in
the study group knew how to properly perform a testicular self-exam and
actively practiced the procedure.