Written by Jack Burke, Contributing Writer for InFluential Magazine
April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month which provides a great time to learn about the warning signs, risk factors and treatment of the cancer that affects 9,000 new men in the US every year. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men ages 15-44 so it’s crucial to know the key facts about the disease.
Here are some tips to help you recognize, address and recover from the cancer:
Testicular cancer occurs when cells grow uncontrollably and form a mass in the testicles, the small sperm-producing organs located in the scrotum. While the exact causes of this particular cancer are largely unknown, there are several risk factors that increase a man’s likelihood of developing it. Young, white men are most at risk, but a family history of testicular cancer, an undescended testicle, or abnormal testicular development can all significantly increase your risk of developing the cancer as well.
Most cases of testicular cancer are presented as a lump, but that isn’t the only warning sign. While it’s important to perform regular self-checks for testicular lumps, it’s also crucial to be on the lookout for symptoms like a swollen scrotum, an ache in the abdomen, or tenderness in the pectoral muscles. These can all be warning signs of testicular cancer.
If you or your partner exhibit these symptoms, it’s important to make an appointment with your doctor to be tested as soon as possible. This particular form of cancer has an incredible survival rate– 97 percent– when treated quickly.
Treatments range from simple surveillance, to radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or surgery. Surgeries might include removing the lymph nodes at the back of the abdomen, or possibly removing the testicle all together.
Some side effects of testicular cancer treatments can have little to no effect on your life, while others can have a significant impact. Here are some of the most common issues men face while recovering from treatment and how to address them:
- Erectile dysfunction: During radiation treatment or chemotherapy, testosterone-producing cells can often become damaged, resulting in several intimacy issues. These include low libido and difficulty obtaining or maintaining an erection. If you notice some of these issues yourself, consider taking an erectile dysfunction medication that contains sildenafil to improve blood flow to the penis.
- Low fertility: Some cancer drugs can reduce sperm count, lessening your chances of conceiving. Often, sperm count can be recovered, but in rare circumstances the low numbers can be permanent. If you plan to have children after your treatment, ask your doctor about sperm banking before you begin.
- Hearing damage: Many testicular cancer survivors experience hearing loss after certain types of chemotherapy. Many will also experience tinnitus, the constant sound of ringing in the ears which can reduce hearing ability. If this happens to you, it’s often permanent, but can be managed. Try to stay hydrated, keep your blood pressure low, and use headphones to minimize the effect of loud noises at concerts or sporting events. This should protect hearing problems from getting worse.
This April, make sure you’re taking the time to look after your health and educating yourself on the different health risks that could affect you. For more information on testicular cancer, visit www.testicularcancersociety.org.