Monday, January 15, 2007

Testicular Cancer-The Silent Killer

So many things I never expected to write about..............................

After I wrote the article about men’s cancers, friends shared more information with me, particularly the male point of view, and I would like to incorporate some of this new information here.

When I was young, the word breast was not to be said aloud, let alone breast cancer. By the time everyone knew someone who had it, the words had lost the stigma and could be said out loud, and even in mixed company. Lives are being saved every day because we can talk about it.
Now men are in the same situation we women were. The words prostate and testicle are spoken in whispers only, and to link them with the word cancer is not to be considered. At the time my grandfather passed away from the complications of prostate cancer at the age of 87, I did not even know what a prostate was. Lives are being lost because of it.

I heard about a man who noticed swelling in one of his legs and went to the doctor. Tests were not good but the man did nothing about it. Finally he went to a urologist, but too late. Six weeks later he passed away from prostate cancer that could have been spotted and treated and perhaps this man did not need to lose his life. I don’t believe doctors are as aggressive in educating their patients or ordering test as they could be, nor are they as informed of current methods as they should be. Men who do go for surgery often have more invasive surgery than necessary because of not being informed of the alternatives. As always, the ultimate responsibility for our health rests with us and we must be in the front line as far as educating our families and ourselves.

A very few years ago, a young friend was shoeing his horse when she kicked him in the groin, damaging one testicle to the point that it had to be removed. As is common practice, it was sent for biopsy. The report came back positive for cancer, the silent type where there is no indication that something is wrong until far too late. The only way it could have been detected was by blood tests, which would have shown elevated hormone levels. All of the cancerous tissue had been removed so he opted for follow up blood tests rather than invasive preventative treatment. He was still clear after five years and has since married and has a young son.

Another success story that I have permission to share here is another example of serendipity (for lack of a more universally acceptable word) taking a hand. A young man, not much older than my friend, with a passion for hunting and a hunting dog that was his constant companion, suddenly had to lock the dog away from his presence. The dog would not stop burying his muzzle in the man’s crotch, something he had never done before but would not be deterred if in the same room. When locked away, he constantly howled and whined, wanting to be with the man and then unable to stop sniffing at the man’s crotch. This was very strange behavior and there was no evident reason for it. Before any decision could be made as to what to do about the dog, the man had an accident where he did the splits, big time, and ended up having to go to a doctor when his testicle swelled up. The family doctor sent him to a urologist who found something he did not like on an ultrasound image. Immediate surgery showed testicular cancer tumors, which were removed successfully. Like so many people, this man had never even heard of testicular cancer until it touched his life so dramatically. After surgery, the man’s dog no longer had any interest in his crotch. The dog had smelled the cancer and tried to warn his human companion.

As an aside, I have heard other stories of animals saving lives and warning of such things as cancer, seizures, and other medical conditions, We have barely tapped the surface of what these animals can know and can do for us if we are able to understand them. Animals are incredible and their love for us knows no bounds. I believe that if we do not ache for them when they leave us, we have not properly appreciated their gift to us and we do not deserve such gifts. Makes the crying easier, and I think I am right in that anyone who has truly loved an animal has seen the humanity in the eyes that look back at us.

In order to have more success stories, we must help to do the same for men as we women have done for ourselves…we must desensitize the words so that it is OK to talk about, OK to perform self examinations to spot changes in the early stages, OK to go to the doctor for regular check ups or if there is a suspected problem.

As women, wives, mothers, sisters, daughters… we need to help make men’s cancers as freely discussed as breast, cervical, ovary and uterine cancer. We can help save lives that way. Men are beginning to talk; boys are beginning to receive health education in school, including reproductive systems and cancer potential. It is not enough. Boys still squirm, blush and shuffle their feet when the reproductive systems are given their proper names. Men still feel guilt when they contemplate self-examination, left over from boys having it drilled into them that they must not play with themselves.

We women are our own worst enemies. Women raised those poor husbands out there. Why we don't raise our sons with the values necessary to become good husbands and fathers, I truly don't know. We don't make sure they are taught to do self-examinations and we don't teach them the risks inherent in being male. We are not well enough informed ourselves, as shown by the many sides to the circumcision issue. Maybe we think that is the father's job, but since women also raised him, he doesn't know either.

We somehow teach our daughters how to look after themselves medically, (or at least we allow schools to do so), what to expect from a husband, how to be the best mothers we know how to be.... Ultimately it comes down to the fact that children are much more resilient and much more hardy than we give them credit for. By the time we learn how to parent, the child is grown and on his/her own, and miracle of miracles, they somehow managed to grow up to be good adults in spite of our blunders.

I wish there was a guide for men to hang on the shower at home like the one that walks women through breast self examination. I wish there was a campaign for men like the pink ribbon campaign for women. I wish there was a screening program for high-risk men. I certainly wish there was information available as to what makes men high risk.


Sue said...

I am so happy to have read this! I pray that many people see it. I am going to make my husband get tested for this silent killer. I think you have done a wonderful service to others with this.
I love you dear friend.
Hugs Sue

Don Iannone said...


Thanks for all the insights and compassion. Hope you are doing well. You are in my thoughts and beyond...

Trée said...

Excellent post. Thanks for bring awareness to a cancer few think about.

Zareba said...

Thank you all for your comments.

It is a sad comment on our society that this is spoken about in whispers if at all.

If anyone knows of a good place to post this article, please feel free to do so. The more people read it the more lives can be saved.


Scott Joy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott Joy said...

There are many testicular cancer survivors out here! Please see the Testicular Cancer Resource Center and the support forums for more information.