Apr 182004
 
Authors: Christiana Nelson

Men have a one in 300 chance of developing testicular cancer,

according to the American Cancer Society.

While testicular cancer is uncommon, the ACS reports that it

most frequently affects men aged 15 to 40, but it can occur in

males of any age, including infants and elderly men.

Doug Bank, president of the Testicular Cancer Resource Center,

said the exact risk factors for this cancer have not been

determined.

“Since we do not know what causes this cancer, we do not know of

anything that can decrease their risk of getting the cancer,” Bank

said.

Studies have suggested that males slightly increase their risk

of developing testicular cancer if they have a family history of

the cancer, if one of their testicles did not descended at birth or

if they are of a particular race.

According to the ACS, the risk for Caucasian Americans is five

to 10 times higher than that of African Americans and more than

twice the risk for Asian Americans.

Since the risk factors for testicular cancer are not always

present in men who develop the cancer, experts suggest that men

perform monthly self-exams.

“The intent of the exam is that they know what their anatomy

feels like when nothing is wrong,” Bank said. “That way if they

ever feel something out of the ordinary, they will know that it is

unusual and can seek medical attention.”

Dr. Jane Higgins, a staff physician at Hartshorn Health Service,

agreed.

“It is usually a painless lump, sometimes there is pain, but not

normally, so it can be hard to feel,” Higgins said. “We encourage

men to do their monthly exams.”

Following the diagnosis of testicular cancer, doctors perform an

orchiectomy, removing the testicle through an incision along the

belt line.

Depending on the tumor’s severity, “treatments can include

surveillance, surgery to remove lymph nodes, radiation and

chemotherapy,” Bank said.

Christina Meyers, a professor in M.D. Anderson’s Department of

Neuro-Oncology, said treatments can endanger fertility.

“Men frequently bank their sperm just to be on the safe side for

what the treatments might do to the sperm cells,” Meyers said.

“Even if they don’t plan on having a family, they are encouraged to

bank their sperm in case they change their mind.”

Regardless of the possible problems caused by treatment, the ACS

reports that men only have a one in 5,000 chance of dying from

testicular cancer.

“Even if you have difficulty, it is better than being dead,”

Meyers said. “You just have to balance it.”

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