DO IT WITH FEELING, GUYS
Self exams are the best way to catch testicular cancer early
You’re nuts if you don’t listen up! Testicular cancer strikes young — it’s the most common cancer in men aged 15 to 39 in Canada. It’s Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, and while the prognosis is good, one in 20 don’t make it.
It’s time to grab testicular cancer by the balls. Will Joyce is one of the lucky ones. The 28-year-old Hamilton landscape designer was diagnosed about a year ago after he checked himself after hearing a talk show encouraging men to check their testicles for Movember. Something didn’t feel right — there was a bump and soreness — so he went to the doctor.
An ultrasound was immediate, and the very next day he got the news. On February 23, with his fiancee by his side, Joyce was diagnosed with 3B testicular cancer: “It’s crazy to hear your chances of living communicated as a percentage, even if it’s a high one.”
His cancer had in fact spread to his lymph nodes and they weren’t sure where else, possibly in his lungs too. “My urologist and surgeon were kind and let me know that they typically see a 80-90% cure rate in cases like mine before putting me under — that was a tough day.”
One testicle was removed, and another surgery followed six months later to remove lymph nodes. In between was nine rounds of chemo. For Joyce the worst part was not being able to shield his loved ones from the scariness and worry of it all.
“I lost all my hair and gained quite a bit of weight through the process, but felt lucky to be able to fight what I was sick with. It wasn’t lost on me that not everyone has that opportunity and many others have tougher fights than I had.”
Last September he was declared cancer free! In October he married his “freaking warrior lady.” They got matching arm tattoos: “We got this.”
And in case you’re wondering, all his parts are in good working order, laughs Joyce, and the future is rosy. Joyce adds that prior to surgery he worked with a fertility clinic to store sperm in case the cancer or chemo impacted his fertility long term.
Now Joyce is helping spread the word for Testicular Cancer Awareness Month in April, and supporting self checks through the Movember Foundation’s Know Thy Nuts campaign. Something feels unusual seek out help. It only takes a minute. “Men need to know their bodies and be diligent.”
This issue’s been covered up far too long: “Men are used to toughing out difficult situations, and often don’t discuss health concerns,” says Ken Aucoin, Country Director Canada for the Movember Foundation. “With testicular cancer survivors, often one testicle is removed. Sometimes it’s both testicles. This is incredibly personal, and has been stigmatized in the past.”
Awareness is needed on this topic because 70% of men don’t do regular self-checks to understand what feels normal for them, says Aucoin. With testicular cancer, early detection is key to ensuring treatment can happen quickly so that the cancer doesn’t spread. “It’s so important to be feeling around regularly and going to a doctor if it hurts or doesn’t feel right.”
According to cancer.ca, an estimated 1,100 Canadian men were to be diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2017, with 45 deaths. More than 10,000 men in North America will be diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2018.
The American Cancer Society reports that the incidence rate of testicular cancer has been increasing in the United States and many other countries for several decades.
Testicular cancer is so very beatable, it just takes some knowledge and awareness to get ahead of it, adds Joyce. “Don’t be scared, don’t put it off because you’re worried. Just do it. You’re probably okay and, if not, you can get started on your fight right away.”
For more information, check out ca.movember.com/mens-health/ testicular-cancer. Cancer.ca and testicularcancer.ngo offers lifesaving information and resources too on this disease.