Testicular cancer 

Two men who have had testicular cancer talk about their experience of it and the importance of checking for early warning signs. Plus advice from an expert.

Learn about the symptoms of testicular cancer

Transcript of Testicular cancer

Testicular cancer is the commonest cancer, the most prevalent cancer

for men between the ages of about 20 and 35.

It affects about 2,000 men each year

and your risk of getting testicular cancer is about one in 400,

yet it's a very easily treatable cancer.

If you examine your testicles and get used to examining your testicles

you can detect it at a very early stage,

and if you do so, the cure rate is very good.

The doctor says, "Do you know what we're feeling?" "No."

He says, "Here, have a feel."

When he pointed it out, you think, "Yes, there is something there."

And you could feel it.

Knowing that had been in me for some time was quite a scary thought.

It's more of a dull ache. That's how it happened to me.

It's not like a sharp pain, it's just a sort of feeling of wrongness.

I had a condition as a child

which meant I had to have regular check-ups with a surgeon,

so luckily it was him that found out that I had the tumour,

as it ended up to be.

He did an ultrasound scan.

Again, you only ever associate ultrasound with babies,

and I wasn't even told it was cancer.

It was, "It is a tumour."

They gave me a book saying Understanding Testicular Cancer,

and it was then that it dawned on me that I'd got cancer

at 19 years old.

The commonest sign or symptom of testicular cancer

is developing a lump in the testis

or a change in the size or the shape of the testis.

Sometimes associated with testicular discomfort,

sometimes just a pure swelling of the testis.

Occasionally signs such as back pain or a cough

or enlargement of the breasts,

which are usually signs of more advanced cancer.

My testicle got heavier and noticeably harder as well,

so instead of being a little bit malleable

it was quite big and hard and heavy

and it didn't feel right.

In fact it turned out that it had almost tripled in size.

After a week it got worse and a bit more pronounced

and I got more aware of the fact that there was something definitely wrong,

so when I went to see the doctor, he examined it and he said,

"Yes, one's definitely not right."

I'd been told, after I'd had it for about 18 months,

because it had spread into my abdomen and was on its way to my lungs...

I'd felt pain, but at that age you put it down to growing pains and all sorts

and you just think, you do the bloke thing, "It's nothing, it'll go."

I'd never heard of testicular cancer. Never known what to look for.

Checking yourself regularly seems a sensible piece of advice.

I don't think it has to be very often. No more than once a month.

It's really a question of knowing what it normally feels like

so that if it changes, you can tell the difference.

Have a bath, a long hot bath,

or if you don't have a bath, have a long hot shower,

and your scrotum relaxes

and your testicles descend a little bit more than normal,

and just feel them.

Put some soap on your hands if you want and just feel them.

You don't have to do it for very long,

but you just need to do it so that you get familiar with them.

At first you're just doing it to look for irregularities,

and often those irregularities will be just normal.

There's a little tube that supplies the sperm

and at the top of that often you get a little bit of gristle.

And testicles aren't perfect spheres. They're not squash balls.

So it's a sense of becoming familiar with them

so that afterwards, if there's something wrong, you spot it.

Anything to do with your nuts or your privates is obviously embarrassing.

Get over it. That's all there is to it.

If we find a lump and it looks like it's a tumour, a testicular cancer,

then the first treatment is to remove the cancer,

usually by removing the testicle.

At the same time as they remove the testicle

an artificial testicle can be put in,

so you may not notice much difference afterwards.

They said, "Do you want a fake one put in it?"

Something goes through your head, "Shall I? Shan't I?"

"Will it feel abnormal? Will it feel OK?"

It wasn't until you spoke to other guys going through the same thing...

I said no because it could be something else that goes wrong.

It's been nine years and I've got used to the fact that there's only one there.

If you're a young guy and you're not very settled in your head,

or you're very worried about how you seem as a guy,

then go for it,

but for me, I'm relatively settled and I thought,

"Well, it's not the same, you can't put it back."

Most girls don't even notice.

It's always weird when you take a girl home because you think,

"What if she notices? What if she says something?"

"Do I feel obliged to tell her?"

And so the first few times afterwards with different girls

I had these very sincere, serious conversations

while I was also at the same time trying to be sexy,

saying, "Of course, I..."

But not wanting to be a moaner or a whinger, it's a hard thing to drop in.

And then after a while I left it out, I didn't even say anything.

No one's noticed, in fact, which is almost a disappointment

because I sort of want to tell them my brave story of my fight against cancer

and how I maintained my virility throughout.

When I was diagnosed they said, "The chemotherapy can make you infertile."

"We've got a facility where you can bank sperm and it's there for the future."

You're thinking again, "Shall I? Shan't I?"

"Is there really a choice? No, there isn't."

If you want to have kids, the only way to guarantee it

is to put something in the bank.

So I went through that

because after the chemo, you can't go back and think, "I wish I'd done it."

It could be too late.

Fortunately we haven't had to use it

and we've got a little four-year-old monster.

Luckily we haven't needed to use it

but it's always there if we want to have another one and we can't.

The longer you leave it, the more likely it is the cancer will spread,

the more advanced that spread will be,

and the more intensive the treatment is.

The worst thing you can do is to ignore a change.

Testis cancer is a very treatable, very curable disease.

If it's detected early, the treatment is fairly minimal

and is very, very successful.

The more you worry about it and the longer you leave something,

the worse it's going to get,

so anything, if ever you're in doubt

and especially if you think, or have reason to think, it might be serious,

go to the doctor,

because you've got nothing to lose but your balls.

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'I beat testicular cancer'

Footballer Neil Harris was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2001 but was back playing for Millwall FC within months