Dr. Mark Allen, MD, a Plano, Texas Urologist, assisted in this interview with *John, a patient of his North Texas urology practice. (*Patient names have been changed for privacy reasons).
John was a newlywed in his late-twenties with an excellent career, a new home, a wife and many dreams. He and his wife had begun discussing the prospects of having a child, and had decided to begin and maintain a healthy lifestyle before they tried to conceive.
About a week into their new workout routine John realized that the soreness had died down from all parts of his body except for one. He still felt sore and had a swollen testicle. Concerned and uncomfortable he decided to see his physician who referred him to a urologist who ran a series of tests, including an ultrasound of his scrotum and a pelvic x-ray. What the doctor found greatly surprised John. He had Testicular Cancer. John had so many questions. He began with, “But I’m too young for cancer, how did this happen?”
What is Testicular Cancer?
The truth, is that testicular cancer is in fact most common in men between the ages of 15-35. White men are at the highest risk of getting this disease and while the exact cause is unknown, there are certain risk factors. The risk factors for getting testicular cancer include a history of testicular cancer, a history of an undescended testicle, a family history of the disease, HIV infections, and body size. Certain studies have indicated that taller, larger men at more at risk.
Testicular cancer is one of the most curable forms of cancer. This was very good news to John, and the more than 8,000 other men who are diagnosed with this disease each year. The risk of dying from testicular cancer is relatively low. However, as with all cancers, it is important to catch it early so that treatment can be implemented.
Testicular cancer may not show any symptoms in the early stages. The most common symptoms that will appear will include a pain in the lower back and in the abdomen, a heavy feeling in the scrotum, a swollen testicle and/or a lump in one or both of the testicles. Most often, a lump is what signals the cancer. Many men also complain about pain and soreness in the testicular region.
As the Urologist did in John’s case, tests will be run to determine the stage of the cancer. There are several stages to consider:
- Stage 1: The cancer has not spread outside of the testicle.
- Stage 2: The cancer has spread throughout the scrotum and into the lymph nodes in the lower abdomen.
- Stage 3: The cancer has gone beyond the lymph nodes and could possibly spread to the liver, kidney, bladder or lungs.
Testicular Cancer Treatment
Because John saw a doctor as soon as he realized something was not right, he was found to only be in Stage 1 of the cancer, and was able to receive treatment for testicular cancer and hopefully prevent any future cancer. Treatment for testicular cancer includes:
- Radiation Therapy
- Surgical removal of a testicle, or both if necessary
- Removal of the infected lymph nodes
Today, John and his wife are the proud parents of two children and he recently made it to the 6-year cancer free mark. John continues to support cancer awareness groups and urges everyone he knows to “know your body,” and that “prevention is the best cure.” John gets asked often how he was able to conceive two children after losing a testicle. His urologist, Dr. Mark Allen, MD of Plano, Texas offers the following answer.
“When a testicle is removed, your sperm count only dwindles for a short period of time. Eventually the other testicle will produce double-time, returning your sperm count to normal, and making your chances of conceiving naturally just as normal as the next guy. But if you are concerned about conceiving a child once you have beat your cancer, you should talk to your doctor about the options that are available. There are other methods and ways to conceive with your partner,” says Dr. Allen.
The surest way to beat testicular cancer is to be tested when you feel something is different; a swollen testicle, a lump or pain in the testicle region should be looked at by a professional. Survival rates have never fallen below 72%, this is due to early detection and new medical breakthroughs in treating the disease.