Time to tackle male cancer

Time to tackle male cancer

Time to tackle male cancer

First published in NewsXtra

TV's Jeremy Kyle recently revealed his secret battle with testicular cancer, shining light on a touchy subject. Lisa Salmon reports on the lowdown down-below.

By Lisa Salmon

As a TV chat show host, Jeremy Kyle is more used to hearing about other people's torrid personal battles. But lately it's Kyle himself who's been in the spotlight as he battles one of the most dreaded foes of all, cancer.

The 47-year-old had surgery and chemotherapy following the discovery of a growth in his testicles shortly before Christmas.

A message on his ITV show's Facebook page says the father-of-four is now on the mend, and will be back at work 'very soon'.

'It's been a really tough couple of months for him and his family but he wanted to let you all know that he appreciates your continuing support,' the message also states.

The fact that Kyle waited a while before revealing his cancer to the public is completely understandable. Being diagnosed is usually a huge shock and a terrifying and uncertain time for both the person with the disease and their loved ones.

But as Rebecca Porta, chief executive of the male cancers charity Orchid, points out, when celebrities like Kyle speak out about their illness, it has a huge impact on raising awareness.

"We find that the publicity about people like Jeremy Kyle having testicular cancer encourages men to self-check, and women to nag their partner or children to check themselves," says Porta.

"We do find it makes a difference, and we've had more inquiries to our nursing service as a result of the publicity about Jeremy. The same thing happened when (former footballer) John Hartson was diagnosed with testicular cancer a few years ago."

Hartson, a retired Arsenal, Celtic and Wales striker and now assistant manager to the Welsh FA, has admitted that he was aware of lumps on his testicles for six or seven years before finally going to see his doctor in 2009. By then, the cancer had spread to his lungs and brain and required emergency surgery. "It so nearly cost me my life," he has said.

But whether through fear, embarrassment, or simply wanting to bury their heads in the sand, putting off going to see their GP is very common - which is why public awareness is so important.

Indeed, Hartson has since founded a charity, the John Hartson Foundation (www.johnhartsonfoundation.co.uk), for this very reason.

And as he also points out, if you do find a lump: "They could be cysts, they could be other things, but it's important you go and get checked."

Here's a run through the basics...

Stats and facts Although testicular cancer is rare (accounting for less than 1% of all cancers), it's the most common cancer in men aged between 15 and 45, with around 2,200 new cases diagnosed every year in the UK.

Risk factors include having an undescended testicle, a family history of the disease, mumps or repeated testicle trauma.

Testicular cancer is twice as common today as it was 20 years ago - but this isn't simply a case of the disease being more prevalent, as it's likely to be due to increased awareness too.

"We are finding that it's on the increase, and while that's worrying, one of the factors is that it's because it's getting better recognition - men are getting better at checking themselves and seeking an early diagnosis," says Porta.

Does it hurt?

More often than not - no. A lump can be felt in 97% of testicular cancer cases, and for about 86% of these it'll be painless. Orchid points out that a cancerous testis may not feel particularly uncomfortable or sore, but an infected testis usually will be very tender.

Roughly 31% of men diagnosed feel pain, while 29% are aware of a dragging sensation. Around 10% of cases occur with a lump being discovered by chance when a man's being examined following a trauma to the testicular area.

Rarely, men with certain types of the disease may have breast swelling or tenderness (gynaecomastia) caused by hormonal changes. If the cancer's spread, there may be enlarged lymph nodes in the back.

What's the prognosis?

The good news is that if testicular cancer is found early enough, the cure rate is an impressive 98%. And Orchid points out that, even if the disease has spread to other areas of the body, there's still a good chance that treatment will be successful.

"It obviously depends on the aggression and stage of the cancer, but in most cases if it's treated quickly the cure rate is 98%," says Porta.

However, the importance of a speedy diagnosis can't be stressed enough. Left untreated, survival rates can drop to 8% if the cancer's aggressive and diagnosed during advanced stages.

"If you find a pea-sized lump on the outside of your testicle, go and see the GP," says Porta. "It could be a cyst, or something more sinister that needs treatment, but either way if you go to the doctor early it means you've got much more chance of a better outcome if it is something to be concerned about."

Treatment varies depending on the type and severity of the cancer, but can involve surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Prosthetic testicles can be inserted to replace ones that need to be surgically removed, and men can also have their sperm frozen before treatment if they're worried about their fertility.

Check it out So, how do you carry out those all-important self-examinations?

Orchid encourages young men to check themselves every month, after a bath or shower when the scrotum is warm and relaxed.

Here's how: :: Check each testicle separately using one or both hands.

:: Roll each testicle between the thumb and forefinger to check the surface is free of lumps or bumps.

:: Be aware of the usual size, texture and anatomy of your testicles, and identify the epididymis (sperm collecting tube) that runs behind each testicle, which is sometimes mistaken for an abnormal lump.

:: Encourage your partner to also be aware of the usual size, texture and anatomy of your testicles, as they may be more likely to identify a problem in the future and encourage you to seek help.

:: For more information on testicular cancer, visit www.orchid-cancer.org.uk or call 0203 465 5766.

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