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Testicular Cancer

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Copyright © 1999 by Bert H. Hoff

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Scott Hamilton skates after testicular cancer

Scott Hamilton ... survivor
photo © J. Barry Mittan

As ABC News reports, "Gold Medal figure-skating champ Scott Hamilton became part of an ominous trend in March 1997, when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. 'I feel 100 percent confident,' he said at the time, 'that I can overcome this disease.' With a great attitude, aggressive chemotherapy and surgery, Hamilton was back on the ice within months of his diagnosis.

The good news is that testicular cancer is almost always curable if it is found early.

The bad news? Too many men are like Scott, "It wasn't until I couldn't stand up straight, that I finally found out something was wrong. I waited too long." Men, especially those in the high-risk age range of 15 to 35, should do a testicular self-examination after a warm shower. Something unusual? Check it out. It may save you a lot of grief--or your life.

Rates of testicular cancer have increased sharply in the past three decades, especially among young men who probably thought they had no reason to worry about the dreaded C word. On Feb. 15th ABC's 20/20 devoted a segment to the issue.

Cycling champ Lance Armstrong has a similar story. ABC News states: "Lance Armstrong roared into 1996 as the number-one ranked cyclist in the world. But in October of that year, 'the Golden Boy of American Cycling' was forced off his bike in excruciating pain. Tests revealed an advanced form of testicular cancer that had spread to his abdomen, lungs and brain, and he was given only a 50 percent chance of survival.

Remarkably, after a year of aggressive surgery and chemotherapy, he was declared cancer-free in 1997. His victory at the Sprint 56K Criterium race in Austin, Texas, in May 1998, and several other stunning victories since then, are milestones in his comeback as a professional cyclist. In addition to resuming his biking career, he established the Lance Armstrong Foundation for cancer research and awareness."

In a recent interview, someone asked, "What were some of the early symptoms that you overlooked? Did you simply shrug them off as something that would pass?" He replied, "Yes. Yes I did, I thought that because of my job and I'm on a saddle all day the swelling I had down there was because of what I did. But what sticks out the most is that I didn't want to believe it or hear that I was sick.

Today, testicular cancer is a highly treatable disease, especially with early detection and treatment. It usually strikes men between the ages of 15 and 35 and, although it is the most common cancer for men in this age group, it accounts for only about 1 percent of all cancers in men. This type of cancer is much more common in Caucasian men than in men of other ethnic groups. About 7,200 cases of germ cell tumor, which make up 95 percent of cancer arising in the testicles, will be diagnosed in 1997.

The earliest symptom of testicular cancer is, most often, pain, swelling or hardness in the testes or some combination of these symptoms. Less often, the first symptom a patient will notice is a small, painless lump on the testicle. A man with testicular cancer might also feel heaviness in the scrotum, an ache in the lower abdomen or groin area, an accumulation of blood or fluid in the scrotum, or a change in the way a testicle feels. More rarely, there is tenderness in the man's breast area because of high levels of a hormone called human chronic gonadotropin (HCG). Remember, though, that these symptoms do not necessarily indicate cancer. There could be other causes, such as an infection. Only a doctor can tell you the ultimate cause of any symptom.

Not too long ago, testicular cancer was considered a difficult and dangerous type of tumor. Advances in treatment mean that most men diagnosed with testicular cancer, especially those diagnosed when the cancer is at an early, treatable stage, can now expect to survive the disease. Today, the overall cure rate for testicular cancer, when detected early, is above 90 percent.

featured articles

Chat with survivor Scott Hamilton

Testicular Cancer: Survival with Early Treatment

How to Do a Testicular Self-Examination

Testicular Self-Examination

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