Weekly check up: Testicular Cancer

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the names Lance Armstrong, Tom Green and Scott Hamilton? It might not be testicular cancer, but for prevention’s sake, it should be.

Armstrong, a Tour de France winning cyclist; Green, a celebrity comedian; and Hamilton, an Olympic medal-winning figure skater, are all survivors of testicular cancer, the most common form of cancer among men ages 15 to 34, according to the non-profit medical practice Web site MayoClinic.com. The cancer, which develops in the testicles of the male reproductive system, affects 8,000 to 9,000 Americans each year.

“This is an important issue for college-aged men,” said Student Health Services Outreach Coordinator Susan Haney, who added that SHS has seen students who suspect they have testicular cancer and referred them for further treatment.

Despite the health threat, testicular cancer has one of the highest rates of survival – more than 90 percent if the disease hasn’t spread to other parts of the body. Armstrong’s testicular cancer had already spread to his lungs, stomach and brain when he was diagnosed in 1996, but the now-retired champion went on to win seven Tour de France trophies in his remission. Testicular cancer patients whose cancer has metastasized have a 50 percent survival rate when treated with chemotherapy.

Haney said monthly self-examinations of the testicular area is one of the most important steps students can take to detect the cancer early on, especially after a hot shower or bath when the scrotum is looser. Men should examine each testicle separately and keep an eye out for pea-shaped lumps.

“By examining themselves regularly, men will notice if there is a change,” Haney said. “If there are symptoms, have yourself checked out (by a medical professional) as soon as possible.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, testicular cancer symptoms include a lump or enlargement of either testicle, a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum, a sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum, pain in the abdomen or groin and tenderness of the breasts.

When diagnosed, the most common treatment requires the surgical removal of one of both testicles, called radical inguinal orchiectomy. Green documented his battle with testicular cancer in 2000, with a one-hour TV special that included graphic footage of his surgery.

Though having a testicle removed may interfere with a man’s fertility, and having a “uniball” can be one of the most emasculating thoughts for a man, at least there is less than a five percent chance that the cancer will develop in the remaining testicle.

“Weekly check up” is a regular feature in the Life section. If you have a health topic you want to know more about, e-mail features@gwhatchet.com.

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