April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month. A new video released to coincide with this features a gay man discussing the impact that being diagnosed had on his life. It serves as a sobering reminder for any man to check himself regularly.
Peter, based in Toronto, was just 26 when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He had to have a testicle removed and undergo chemotherapy, which he says was tough. His weight plummeted from 196 lbs to 140 lbs.
At the same time, his family were still coming to terms with the fact he is gay, which meant they weren’t as supportive as they could have been.
It wasn’t until he had nearly completed six months of treatment that his dad and brother visited him. Both found it hard to deal with the reality that someone they loved one was wasting away from cancer.
Although initial tests showed that the treatment had been successful, the cancer returned. Peter had to have his second testicle removed. He’s now cancer free, although has to go for regular check-ups to monitor that the disease doesn’t return in another part of his body.
As both his testicles have been removed, he has to have hormone replacement therapy. This entails an injection of testosterone every fortnight as his body no longer produces the hormone on its own.
‘I could say my experience of testicular cancer has been unique because I don’t meet many other testicular cancer survivors who have both removed. Sometimes it’s like I run into another unicorn and we go into this in-depth conversation, “Oh, this is what you went through”!’
The video is a clip from a longer documentary entitled Balls. Canada-based director Nico Stagias says he was inspired to make the film because testicles are something that men don’t talk about enough.
‘Men tend to shy away from discussion about their balls, especially if they are experiencing medical issues like cancer, torsion or varicocele. Because men are so guarded about their balls, they often dismiss potential testicular ailments and only address the situation when it becomes critical; when it’s too late.’
This is an issue that the US-based Testicular Cancer Society is only too aware. It’s campaign for April is that #TCisNoJoke – and that conditions affecting men’s balls should not be treated as something amusing or funny.
What is testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer primarily affects younger men and is the most common form of cancer in men aged between 15 and 49. However, it remains a comparatively rare cancer, with around 2,200 news cases being diagnosed each year in the UK.
That said, since 1975, the incidence of testicular cancer has more than doubled – and the reasons for this are not yet known. Fortunately, treatment is usually very effective, and testicular cancer is 97% curable. That figure rises to 99% if it’s caught in its early stages.
Testicular cancer usually presents itself as a lump in one of your testicles. Regular self-examination can help to detect this cancer at an early stage. When examining your balls, check for the following signs:
- A lump in either testicle
- Any enlargement of the testicle
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- A dull ache in the abdomen or groin
- A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
- Growth or tenderness of the upper chest
If the cancer is not treated at an early stage, cancer cells can break away and spread to nearby lymph nodes or other organs.
If a lump or change in the testicles is identified, a doctor will arrange for a diagnostic test to indicate if the lump is benign or a possible cancerous tumor.
Please bear in mind that most lumps are not cancerous but it is important to get yourself checked out by your doctor to be sure.
How to examine yourself
Try to examine yourself monthly. It’s best to do it after a warm shower or bath, when your scrotum is more relaxed. If possible, stand in front of a mirror. Look for any swellings on the skin of your scrotum.
Then, check one ball at a time. Hold the testicle gently between thumb and forefinger and roll gently between your fingers. You are looking for: hard lumps; smooth or rounded bumps; and changes in size, shape or consistency. If you are concerned about anything, see a doctor straight away!