Men urged to check themselves for signs of cancer

Men urged to check themselves for signs of cancer

TESTICULAR cancer may account for just one per cent of all cancers in men but it still means that around 2,200 men are diagnosed with it each year in the UK.

It also tends to affect younger men and is the most common cancer for males aged between 15 and 49. And, although we do not know why, the number of cases of testicular cancer has doubled since the mid-1970s.

Typical symptoms are a painless swelling or a lump in one of the testicles or a change in their shape or texture. There are different types of testicular cancer, the most common being germ cell testicular cancer, accounting for around 95 per cent of all cases. Germ cells are a type of cell that the body uses to create sperm.

The two main sub-types of germ cell testicular cancer are seminomas, which account for around half of cases, and non-seminomas. Both types respond well to chemotherapy.

The exact cause or causes of testicular cancer are unknown but identified risk factors include undescended testicles - where the testicles remain in the abdomen and fail to descend to the scrotum - and having a close relative with a history of this or testicular cancer.

The good news is that testicular cancer is one of the most treatable types of cancer with the best outlook. In England and Wales, 99 per cent survive for a year or more after diagnosis with 98 per cent surviving for five years or more. Almost all men treated for testicular germ cell tumours are cured and it is rare for the condition to return more than five years later.

Former Bolton Wanderers’ favourite Alan Stubbs suffered from testicular cancer in his days as a Celtic player in 1999. Now 47 and Everton’s under-21s coach, he started his career at the Wanderers and was captain in the ‘90s.

He later moved to Celtic and a routine drug test after the Scottish Cup Final revealed he was suffering from testicular cancer. In his autobiography, he recalled that he “hid from the warning signs” and he urged other men to regularly check themselves.

Urology consultant Mr Agapios Gkentzis sees around two patients a month at the Royal Bolton Hospital who are diagnosed with testicular cancer. “They have usually found a lump and go to their GP who will refer them to see us within two weeks,” he explained.

After examination, an ultrasound is then carried out and if testicular cancer is diagnosed, surgery follows within a short space of time. This is usually to remove the testicle, stated Mr Gkentzis, performed via the groin rather like hernia surgery.

The majority of men having this procedure will also be offered the opportunity for a prosthesis to be inserted at the same time – a silicone testicle. “This is purely for cosmetic reasons but it is the choice of most men in this situation,” he added.

Because of this surgical removal – and the fact that these may be young men with no children – they may also be encouraged to bank their sperm before surgery in case the remaining testicle proves not to be working properly.

Chemotherapy may be offered after surgery. Because most men presented at the lump stage – “and early, when it can be treated” – the success rate (especially combined with chemotherapy) is very high, around 99 per cent.

“Men need to know what feels normal for their testicles and check them every two months,” advised Mr Gkentzis. “Even if the lump is found to be just a cyst, we would rather see them and be sure.”

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