THE number of men who are diagnosed with testicular cancer has more than doubled in the last 40 years - but it can be effectively treated if it is caught early. To mark Men’s Health Week, Ben Spencer spoke to men who have survived the disease - and found out what signs to look out for.
TESTICULAR cancer strikes 2,000 men in the UK every year, a rate that has more than doubled since 1975.
It is the most common cancer for young men, usually hitting people aged 15 to 44, and kills around 90 people a year.
But, despite its high incidence, testicular cancer has a 99 per cent cure rate if caught early enough.
This week - Men’s Health Week - doctors and public health campaigners are stressing the importance of getting symptoms checked early.
Peter Baker, chief executive of the Men’s Health Forum, says the main challenge to early diagnosis of male cancers is that they are often reluctant to seek help - a problem he says crops up in ‘pretty much any health issue that affects men’.
“Men do go to the doctor eventually, it just takes them longer and they tend to wait until they’re in pain, or sure beyond doubt that they’ve got the health problem,” he said.
Research by male cancer charity Everyman has found 41 per cent of men who discover a lump never get it checked by a doctor - and 30 per cent simply hope it will go away on its own.
Some 46 per cent of men do not check for changes in their testicles often enough, with one in five admitting to never checking for lumps. Most testicular cancer can be quickly treated with surgery, but if the disease is not caught early it could spread to the stomach, bones or elsewhere - significantly decreasing the chance of survival. David Drabble, aged 64, from Halfway, Sheffield, knows from experience how important it is to keep an eye on your health.
“I caught my testicular cancer early,” he said. “I noticed one of my testicles was really hard. It was like a marble.”
David was referred to Weston Park Hospital, where an ultrasound scan revealed a malignant tumour.
“It was removed within weeks,” he said. “They caught it early, so it wasn’t a problem.
“I had radiotherapy as a precaution, but it had been effectively dealt with and now I’ve been given the all-clear.”
David, who is married to Susan, 63, and has two children and four grandchildren, has given up his profession as a joiner to take up a job at Weston Park, where he helps other cancer patients in the chemotherapy centre, a position funded by the Weston Park Cancer Charity.
He said: “My message is to always check yourself and if there’s a problem go to the doctor. The quicker you can get see a doctor the better it will be.”
Paul Johnstone, NHS director for public health for the North of England, said: “There is a very real culture amongst a lot of men in Yorkshire about not complaining and not going to see the doctor - this is what we want to change.
“By ignoring a problem there is every possibility that you could be making it worse, so our advice is, don’t be shy, get things checked early before they become a problem.”
Darren Hayes, 38, from Monk Bretton, Barnsley, waited a few weeks to go to his GP after he noticed a lump.
“I thought it was nothing,” he said. I eventually went to my GP, about three weeks later and at first he said he thought it was a water problem.
“He gave me some antibiotics but a week later I went back and he referred me to a specialist.”
Darren, at the time a marketing manager at Barnsley FC, was sent for a scan, which revealed 88 per cent of his testicle had turned into a tumour.
“It was such a bombshell,” he said. “I think it is the word ‘cancer’ that scares people. But it can be beaten.”
Just three days after seeing a specialist Darren was in surgery having a testicle removed.
And, despite the initial delay, the doctors caught most of the cancer before it spread.
“There were some traces in my stomach, so I had chemotherapy at Weston Park,” said Darren, husband to Julie, 35, and dad to Maxim, 12, Harrison, eight, and Jeson, five.
“The treatment worked, and now I’m five years in remission.
“Hopefully at my appointment in July I will hear the magic wordks, ‘there’s no need to come back’.” Darren added.
“If you have a lump, just go to the GP. Just pick up the phone and make the appointment. It’s not going to hurt.”