More often than not, we have seen and heard about most cancer types – from breast cancer to cervical and lung cancers – yet when it comes to testicular cancers most of us do not know its existence for the fact that it accounts for just 1% of cancers affecting men.
According to the information on Testicular Cancer from the NHS website, “it is an uncommon type of cancer that primarily affects younger men between the ages of 20 and 55.” The cause or causes of testicular cancer are unknown, but a number of risk factors have been identified that increase the chance of developing the condition, which include:
- having a family history of testicular cancer
- being infertile
- being born with undescended testicles(cryptorchidism). About 3-5% of boys are born with their testicles located inside their abdomen, which usually descend into the scrotum during the first four months of life.
The first figure that springs to my mind when talking about Testicular Cancer is John Hartson, former Arsenal and Celtic player who represented Wales in international football in the late 90s and early 2000.
How devastating an undetected cancer could potentially be harmful is evident in Hartson’s case– “I had a lump on my testicles for around four years and so I had this picture in my head. It was of me walking into a doctor’s room, or a hospital, and them telling me exactly what I heard in Swansea. I foresaw it.” What lazed Hartson is as he said it in his words, “it was just me being stupid, and boyish, and not mature enough to face it. I hoped it would just disappear. But the lump got larger.” By the time it was confirmed that he had cancer, it has catastrophically progressed to stage four cancer – spreading to his lungs and brain. His body was so weakened that chemotherapy treatment has not started straight-away rather, as he spoke of the event, “I had two brain operations and was in intensive care. I got pneumonia and I apparently stopped breathing at one stage. But they brought me back and I had pipes and tubes coming out of me, connected to a ventilator. For a month they were just trying to keep me alive rather than tackle the cancer.” But when his body strengthened, the intense chemotherapy followed, “I had 67 sessions over three months. Your body is zapped and I lost five stone in weight. Thankfully, my appetite came back and I’ve put half a stone back since then.”
The good thing with Testicular Cancer is that it has the highest cure rates of all cancers, in excess of 90% so long as it has not metastasised. According to the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), medical treatment of advanced testicular cancer have had “remarkable progress with a substantial increase in cure rates from approximately 25% in the mid-1970s to nearly 80% today (for metastasised ones). This cure rate is the highest of any solid tumour and improved survival is primarily due to effective chemotherapy”.
The John Hartson Foundation for Testicular Cancer has been hence set up to create awareness and support among societies affected with it or might have been affected by it.