Talking publicly about testicular cancer (TC) makes many men uncomfortable, especially so in Nigeria. The truth, however, is that it is nothing to be embarrassed about.
When compared with other types of cancer, testicular cancer is rare but it is the most common cause cancer in young men. It also has one of the highest survival rates of all other cancers, up to 99%, if diagnosed early. By educating yourself and the men in your life on the risk factors and symptoms, you can be at the forefront of your protecting yourself and those close to you.
Knowing what the risk factors are is important to be able to detect anomalies early. These can include:
- Age: 15-34 year olds are at the highest risk
- Family history: There’s a higher risk if a father or brother had TC
- Undescended testicles: In this condition, one or both testicles fail to move from the abdomen, where they develop before birth, into the scrotum
- Abnormal development of the testicles during puberty
- White males: The risk is 4-5 times greater in Caucasians than in other races
About 1 in 250 men will be diagnosed with TC in their lifetime. Performing a monthly self-exam puts you at the best chances of spotting it early. There are no proven ways of preventing testicular cancer other than early detection so it is important to do regular self-exams.
To perform a self-exam, hold each testicle between your thumb and finger, gently rolling them around. You’re checking for smooth, hard or rounded lumps as well as any pain. Also take note of any changes in size, shape or consistency. If you suspect that something does not seem right, contact a physician or urologist immediate
When diagnosed early, there are several effective treatment options that your urologist will be able to suggest to remove the cancer. This early, an orchiectomy i.e. removal of the cancerous testicle – can be minimally invasive and a patient is able to return home on the same day. When detected early, treatment is often just a simple surgery, short recovery time and back to daily life.
If testicular cancer does metastasize, not only does invasive surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy often follow – all of which have their own risks and side effects – but chances of survival also decrease.
After beating an occurrence of testicular cancer, there is a risk of a recurrence of cancer in the remaining testicle, so survivors should remain alert with regular self-exams.
As a society, we must advocate for more men to be proactive with their health. Start by talking more openly about common health issues with the men in your life.
Mortality of testicular cancer is especially high in developing countries. Late detection, paucity of resources and the high cost of newer imaging modalities and treatment are major challenges to management of testicular cancer. There is a need for better health funding and mass awareness on testicular self-examination.