(MEN'S HEALTH NETWORK) What if you found out that the most common form of cancer in boys and young men ages of 15 to 35 is almost entirely curable if caught early? And what if you found out that awareness and screening are the most effective ways to fight that disease? Wouldn’t you want to help spread the word? Well, now you can.
April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, and for the next 30 days— and beyond, of course— we want men and boys to know about the importance of screenings and awareness for testicular cancer.
Although testicular cancer accounts for only about one percent of all male cancers, it is the most common form of cancer among boys and men between 15 and 35 years old. This year, in the United States alone, more than 9,000 males will be diagnosed with testicular cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, and about 400 will die.
The good news is that testicular cancer, if caught early, has a 99 percent five-year survival rate. But the bad news is that in general, men and boys are far less likely than women and girls to have regular contact with a healthcare provider. That makes early diagnosis of testicular cancer—and most other potentially serious health conditions— extremely difficult. As a result, too many cancers aren’t diagnosed until it’s too late, which helps explain why cancer mortality rates for men are notably higher than for women.
The most effective way to reduce the number of deaths from testicular cancer is to educate boys and young men, and those who love them about the importance of doing regular testicular self-exams and recognizing the symptoms of the disease.
In recent years, a number of high-profile patients and testicular cancer survivors have increased the public’s awareness of the disease. In January, five-time Olympic gold medalist Nathan Adrian went public with his battle with testicular cancer; and reality TV star Tarek El Moussa spent years battling testicular cancer before announcing this spring that he was cancer free. Olympic legend Scott Hamilton is also a testicular cancer survivor. All three of these men were young and in their prime when they were diagnosed, far from typical perceptions of cancer patients.
Men’s Health Network, a national nonprofit advocating for the health and wellness of men and boys, encourages all young men ages 15-35 to regularly perform testicular self-exams, and if they feel a lump/bump, to tell someone and see a doctor immediately. Early symptoms of the disease can be mild, which often causes many to delay seeking medical attention.
Treatment options for testicular cancer vary based on the stage but can include surgery to remove the cancer, chemo-therapy, and radiation treatment or some combination of the three. While increased awareness can help boys and men understand how getting treated for testicular cancer might affect their quality of life, it’s important to note that it won’t necessarily affect their long-term ability to become fathers. In fact, recent studies have suggested that sperm counts for men who undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatment eventually rebound to pre-treatment levels.
There is still a lot we don’t know about testicular cancer, such as what causes the disease in the first place; why it affects primarily young men; and why certain groups of men (Caucasians, for example) are more likely than others (African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians) to be impacted.
So as Testicular Cancer Awareness Month gets underway, Men’s Health Network invites and encourages all men to take their health into their own hands. Literally. And if you’re in a relationship, you and your partner can examine each other (women should be doing monthly breast exams). If you or your partner finds something that doesn’t feel right, pick up the phone and make an appointment with a healthcare provider.
Joshua Garner is the director of Communications for Men’s Health Network. Jamin Brahmbhatt is a board-certified urologist and advisor to Men’s Health Network.