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January 2008 Issue

Cancer cells from human connective tissue.
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Attention Guys: Testicular Cancer Isn't as Rare as You May Think

By Amanda Harper
Published January 2008

Paying closer attention to the look and feel of your testicles could be a lifesaver.

Each year, nearly 8,000 American men—many between the ages of 20 and 39—are diagnosed with testicular cancer. And in most cases, the disease is first detected by self-examination.

Oncology experts at the UC Barrett Cancer Center at University Hospital (UH) want to encourage Cincinnati men to understand their risk for this disease and pay attention to changes in the size, shape and feeling (dull aches or heaviness) of their testicles—especially men between the ages of 20 and 39, the most common age of disease onset.

In December, 20-year-old Ohio State University football player Dan Potokar announced he had advanced testicular cancer.

Unfortunately, according to news reports, Potokar ignored early warning signs and was diagnosed after the cancer spread to his lungs and abdomen. He underwent surgery in December and is currently receiving chemotherapy.

William Barrett, MD, says Potokar is a perfect example of someone who should be especially cognizant of the risks for testicular cancer.

“Testicular cancer represents one of the only ‘home runs’ in oncology in that a cure is frequently possible with the treatments available today—even in advanced disease,” says Barrett, associate professor of radiology at UC and director of radiation oncology at the Barrett Cancer Center.

“Most people perceive testicular cancer to be uncommon, but it’s not that rare so men still need to recognize the warning signs,” he says. “Testicular cancer is often very curable, but can be fatal if left untreated.” 

According to the National Cancer Institute, testicular cancer accounts for about 1 percent of all cancer in men, and is more common in men under 40.

Symptoms include a lump, swelling or enlargement of the testicle and/or pain or discomfort in a testicle.

Barrett says most testicular cancers are found during self-exams, but some symptoms are not obvious enough to be detected without a physical exam by a physician.

“The good news is that testicular cancer has a five-year survival rate of 97 percent,” he says. “But any man who notes a testicular mass or enlargement should immediately consult his physician.

“Delaying a checkup could result in a longer, more difficult recovery,” Barrett adds.

Men who have a family history of testicular cancer or personal history of cryptorchidism (undescended testicles) could be at an increased risk for the disease.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), however, only 14 percent of testicular cancers occur in men with cryptorchidism, leading experts to believe this condition is not a direct cause of the disease.

White American men are five to 10 times more likely to get testicular cancer than are African-American men, according to ACS.

The Barrett Cancer Center is part of a joint cancer program involving the College of Medicine, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and UH.

The collaborative initiative brings together interdisciplinary research teams of caring scientists and health professionals to research and develop new cures, while providing a continuum of care for children, adults and families with cancer. 


UC Health Line features timely health information and tips for consumers.

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