Testicular Cancer has had fairly limited exposure compared to most cancers. It is certainly not the first cancer that comes to mind when one thinks of Cancer. The Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, observed in April, will bring to the fore this ‘invisible’ cancer and help create awareness and in the process help save lives. Perhaps the disease owes its relative obscurity to the fact that it is not only relatively rare but also highly responsive to treatment: at a 95 % success rate, which rises to 98 % if the disease is caught early.

Testicular Cancer Risk

A man’s risk of getting Testicular Cancer is 1 in 300 while his chance of dying from it is fairly rare at 1 in 5000. This presupposes of course the identification of the disease and prompt medical intervention. This is why creating awareness throughout the Testicular Cancer Awareness Month is of paramount importance in highlighting the symptoms to look out for and the need to seek medical advice when the unusual conditions persist in the body for longer than a month.

Testicular Cancer occurs in the testicles which are housed in the scrotum, which hangs underneath the penis. Testicles are male sex organs which, apart from their primary function of producing sperm, produce male sex hormones and testosterone. Testicular Cancer follows the same pattern as other cancers: cells growing out of control and crowding out normal cells. It is however peculiar in the sense that unlike other cancers, risk factors associated with it cannot be changed and in many cases many men with testicular cancer have no known risk factors.

For the record these risk factors include having a close blood relative with testicular cancer, being HIV+, being in the 20 – 34 age bracket and having an undescended testicle. A previous history of Testicular Cancer makes one up 12 times more predisposed to developing it in the other testicle. The presence of Carcinoma in situ (a group of abnormal cells) may sometimes turn cancerous. Caucasian men record a 4 to 5 times likelihood of getting the disease compared to black and Asian men.

Testicular Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms associated with Testicular Cancer include a painless lump on either testicle, a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum, a change in the way a testicle feels, a dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin, pain or discomfort in the testicle or in the scrotum and a sudden buildup of fluid in the scrotum. Swelling of one or both legs and shortness of breath can also be an indication of the presence of Testicular Cancer. Enlarged or swollen breasts might indicate the presence of the disease.  Later stage Testicular Cancer may show up as chest and lower back pain, shortness of breath and bloody phlegm. Young to middle-aged men should particularly be on the lookout for a blood clot as this tends to be the first indication of Testicular Cancer. A Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT), which is a blood clot in a large vein, is one such indicator. A Pulmonary Embolism (a blood clot in an artery in the lung) is another. The latter causes shortness of breath which, as has been indicated, is one of the symptoms of Testicular Cancer.

Activities planned during the Testicular Cancer Awareness Month will centre around education (highlighting of symptoms and the need for medical checkups as well as fertility concerns after a positive diagnosis), life after treatment (including the integration of lifestyle changes into one’s life) and given its attack in the heart of manhood , so to speak, emotional health concerns after diagnosis and treatment.

Individuals, government ministries and private organisations all have an important role to play in bringing out the many facets of this disease and in discussing how best to improve on the gains so far made in tackling it.

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