Testicular Cancer - Most Common, Most Treatable

Testicular Cancer - The Most Common, but Most Treatable Cancer in Young Men

Matthew, an owner of a small commercial cleaning business in Kansas, married the love of his life on June 4, 2011. At 31 years old, he and his wife Rebecca planned to settle into marriage for a couple years before starting a family. But a few months after the wedding, Matthew noticed something was wrong. His right testicle had grown in size and felt dense. “In the past, my right one had actually been a little smaller than the left. Now, all of a sudden, the right one was larger and felt hard. So I knew something was up,” Matthew said. He went to see his doctor right away, who did a physical exam, took blood and ordered an ultrasound. As AUA member urologist Dr. Michael Holzer explains, “We don’t do a biopsy to diagnose testicular cancer because doing this test may actually cause the cancer to spread.”

Eight months after his wedding, Matthew was diagnosed with Stage 2 testicular cancer. This meant it had spread to the lymph nodes and abdomen. Rebecca was upset, but Matthew encouraged his wife to stay positive. “I decided it didn’t do any good to feel sorry for myself. So I tried to just keep busy and keep doing the things I loved to do,” he said. Matthew had surgery to remove his right testicle. For Stage 1 patients, this may be all that is needed to remove the cancer, but Matthew needed more treatments because the cancer had spread. He underwent three rounds of chemotherapy, and then met with his urologist, Dr. Jeffrey Holzbeierlein, director of urologic oncology at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Dr. Holzbeierlein removed the two masses left in Matthew’s abdomen, and since then Matthew has been cancer-free. “I go back every three months for testing, but now I’m pretty much as good as new!” Matthew said.

These days, Matthew is active and feeling healthy again. “There is a common myth that after surviving testicular cancer, a man will be less of ‘a man.’ But that’s just not true,” explained Dr. Holzbeierlein. Matthew does not need to take extra testosterone because his left testicle supplies his body with enough of the hormone. Most of the time, cancer only affects one testicle, and the other testicle still works properly. “Testicular cancer only spreads from one testicle to the other about three or four percent of the time,” according to Victor Senese, president-elect of the Society of Urologic Nurses and Associates. Having surgery to remove one testicle will not cause erectile dysfunction (ED) or leave a man unable to father children.

In Matthew’s case, chemotherapy did affect his sperm viability, meaning he will not likely be able to produce children naturally. Since Matthew and Rebecca wanted to have children, he was advised to bank his sperm before he started chemotherapy. “So that’s still an option for us in the future,” said Matthew. “But it turns out our family is going to grow in a way we never expected.” Matthew and Rebecca were approached about adoption by a member of their church in November 2013. “Sometimes it’s a good thing when life doesn’t go as planned,” said Matthew. They brought their new son home in late February.

Matthew was eager to share his story and encourage other men to be aware of testicular cancer. “If you notice something wrong, don’t be scared. Get it checked out quickly,” he advised. “And if it is cancer, stay positive; chances are you can beat it like I did.” Testicular cancer is the most common cancer among men ages 18 to 35. Men who have a history of an undescended testicle are at higher risk. The good news is testicular cancer is also one of the most treatable cancers. For men with Stage 1 testicular cancer, where the cancer has not spread outside the testicle, the survival rate is almost 100 percent. For men who have Stage 2 or 3 testicular cancer, the survival rate is still much higher than that of other cancers. “There is no known way to prevent testicular cancer,” explained Dr. Holzer, “but young men should know what to look for and get any concerns checked out right away. That’s the best way to stop it from becoming a problem.”

"There is a common myth that after surviving testicular cancer, a man will be less of ‘a man.' But that's just not true"

Protect the Nuts Cracks Down on Testicular Cancer!

Protect the Nuts LLC, Raising Testicular Cancer Awareness!

Protect the Nuts LLC is a small company founded by three young professionals in Baltimore, Maryland. It was created in March 2012 with the charitable purpose of increasing awareness and support for testicular cancer education and research. The “GoNuts” campaign was created using humor as a way to get young people to talk about a topic that, more often than not, seems taboo for young men to discuss.

Through fundraising events and the sale of novel “Go Nuts” gear, Protect the Nuts helps raise awareness in the community. It has designated the Urology Care Foundation as the beneficiary of their fundraising events, and plans to work with the Foundation to provide testicular cancer educational materials and information to local schools, colleges, health centers and other organizations.

"Young men should know what to look for and get any concerns checked out right away. That's the best way to stop it from becoming a problem."

How To Do A Testicular Self-Exam:

Boys can start doing monthly testicular self-exams during their teen years.

The best time to examine your testicles is right after a hot bath or shower. The scrotal skin is most relaxed at this time, and the testicles can be felt more easily. The exam should be done while standing and only takes a few minutes.

  • Look for swelling in the scrotum
  • Gently feel the scrotal sac to find a testicle
  • Examine the testicles one at a time by firmly and gently rolling each testicle between the thumb and fingers of both hands to examine the entire surface
  • Note that it is normal for one testicle to be slightly larger than the other. It is also normal to feel a cord-like structure (the epididymis) on the top and back of each testicle

If you find a small, hard lump (pea-size), swelling or any other differences, contact your urologist as soon as you can.