Despite a string of high-profile cases involving top athletes in the past few years, awareness about testicular cancer is still lacking, especially when compared to other kinds of cancer. Due to this lack of knowledge, there is a negative stigma surrounding the disease. This stigma is even compounded by the fact that sexual health issues remain a taboo topic for many people, while others are reluctant to talk about diseases that can cause death.
A few studies have revealed that embarassment is a major factor that prevents many men from seeking medical help for many health problems, especially those concerning sexual, urinary, and bowel functions. Not only are men more reluctant to talk to their peers about health problems compared to women, they also tend to feel that they need to be in control and are loath to surrender that sense of control by bringing up their health concerns to physicians.
The fact remains, however, that testicular cancer can be easily treated, provided that it is detected early. The stigma of being diagnosed with onesometimes prevents men from seeking help from a medical professional, for fear of being judged. Overcoming the stigma is crucial to seeking help in its early stages.
The first step to combat this stigma is to start educating yourself about the disease. Other than learning how to do the testicular cancer self-exam (TSE), you should also know some basic facts about testicular cancer. It is important to note that:
- Testicular cancer is not a sexually-transmitted disease. It is not even contagious, nor is it caused by any sexual practice or lack of hygiene. There is no reason for a person with testicular cancer to be shunned by healthy individuals.There are, however, a number of risk factors that have been identified for the disease. These include age (it is most common in men aged 15 to 35), genetics (those with a family history of cancer have a high risk of developing this disease), and cryptorchidism or an undescended testicle upon birth.
- There is no way to prevent testicular cancer. Even those who are living relatively healthy lifestyles—such as athletes—have been diagnosed with the disease. The best you can do is try to detect the disease as early as possible by doing the TSE regularly. And once you do detect any lump, it is imperative that you go to a medical center that specializes in treating cancers, such as the Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California.
- Trauma or overexertion does not cause testicular cancer, either. This misconception is probably caused by the fact that men only go to the doctor once they feel pain due to a groin trauma and it is during this checkup that testicular cancer is detected. The trauma or injury itself is not the cause of cancer, it merely drew attention to an otherwise ignored part of the body. Had the patients not seen the doctor, they will still have that cancer; it may just end up being undetected.This fact is evidenced by the case of Lance Armstrong. In a 2006 interview with MedlinePlus Magazine, he recounts: “I was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer on October 2, 1996. I had ignored the symptoms for months; pain comes with professional cycling, so it was easy to dismiss the soreness in my groin, headaches and difficulty breathing. I reluctantly went to the doctor after my testicle had swollen to three times its normal size.”
Help Combat Ignorance
Now that you know these facts, you can further help combat the negative stigma on testicular cancer by spreading awareness. Many organizations across America have organized activities and set up campaigns to educate people about testicular cancer. These organizations include the Testicular Cancer Society, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization of cancer patients, survivors, and care providers; and the Testicular Cancer Foundation, which provides education and support to young men facing the disease.
By educating yourself and spreading awareness about testicular cancer, you may not only save your life; you may also help someone else.