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Taking on testicular cancer

By Cpl. Kat Johnson | | March 26, 2004

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America has a male population of more than 138 million. Every year one out of 25,000 develop testicular cancer.

Studies from the University of Chicago’s Cancer Research Center have shown that men between the ages of 15 and 40 have the highest risk of developing testicular cancer. Men that have an undescended testicle, which is a testis developed on the inside of the body, have an even higher rate regardless of age.

“The first step in discovering testicular cancer is to perform a self test,” said Lt. Jason Guillian, flight surgeon, Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533. “Self-testers are usually the first people to notice any abnormalities.”

Testicular cancer develops in the testes, the male reproductive glands, and can affect the hormones that stimulate the development of male sex organs, beard growth, muscle mass, and voice deepening.

The testes contain seminiferous tubules, sperm developers, that are lined with sertoli cells which provide nutrients to developing cells. The sertoli cells secrete the hormone inhibin, which aid in sperm regulation. Ninety-five percent of testicular cancer originates in the undeveloped portion of these cells.

The risk of developing testicular cancer is four times higher in caucasian men than African-American and even higher for all middle-aged men regardless of race. Because of these factors, any lump or hardness found during a self-test should be taken seriously, according to the American Cancer Society.

“Men that have a question about a lump should go to their squadron corpsmen for an exam,” Guillian said. “If there is a lump present we can send the patient to the Naval Hospital for an ultrasound and see if it is cancerous or not.”

Masses around a testicle that are non-cancerous need to be removed just as if it were cancerous, according to the ACS. These lumps are usually a collection of fluid (cyst) or a dilation of scrotum veins (varicocele) that mirror the growth pattern of testicular cancer. When performing self-exams, men should check for size changes, such as enlargements, and fluid build-up. A dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin area is a common sign of both testicular cancer and non-cancerous masses.

“Even if someone thinks they know what the lump is, they should still have it looked at,” said Guillian.

After being diagnosed with a cancerous lump, an urologist will perform an orchiectomy, which involves surgically removing the infected testis and its associated cord.

After surgery, patients may undergo chemotherapy and radiation therapy to ensure cancer has not spread throughout the body.
According to the American Cancer Society, testicular cancer has one of the highest recovery rates of all cancers thus making early detection a necessity for full recovery.

For more information on testicular cancer or any other types of cancers, contact your squadron corpsmen or designated health care provider.
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