The not-so-good news? Testicular cancer tends to grow quickly. It doesn’t help, either, that men put off telling their doctor if they find something wrong during a self-exam.
The best news is nearly 200,000 men in the United States are testicular cancer survivors and early detection, including self-exams, will increase those numbers.
April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, a good time for men to learn more about this often-overlooked cancer, diagnosed especially in men ages 15-35.
Early detection key to survival
Nationally, only about 8,500 men per year are diagnosed with this cancer with a mortality rate of about 350 men. If it’s detected early, the cure rate is good.
“To me, the biggest challenge is awkwardness,” said Marshfield Clinic Urologist Chirasakdi Ratanawong. “You’re scared and it’s in a private area that nobody wants to talk about so there are delays in reporting.”
How to: Self exam for testicular cancer
Men: Do a monthly self-exam in the shower, feeling for the testicles’ contour. You’re looking for a lump, hardness or painless swelling, according to Clinic Urology specialists.
“A lump can be pretty subtle, which is why it’s important to do monthly self-exams,” Ratanawong said. “By performing these exams, you get to know your own body so if something feels abnormal, you can find it earlier.”
Also report any ache or heavy sensation in the lower abdomen, anal area or scrotum.
Diagnosis and treatment
Doctors confirm a testicular cancer diagnosis by ultrasound exam and blood test. Treatment depends on the specific type of cancer and whether it has spread to other parts of the body via lymph nodes.
With an overall five-year survival rate of 95 percent, the key is early detection. When found in early stages, confined to the testes, the survival rate is 99 percent.
If it has spread to other areas the survival rate drops to 71 percent, so monthly self-exams could be the key to long-term good health.