PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – We often hear the importance of breast self-exams for women but there’s an equally-vital exam for men that is widely ignored. It has to do with detecting cancer of the male organs that make hormones and sperm.
One out of every 250 men will develop testicular cancer at some point during their lifetime. As Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, a local urologist is calling on men to understand the risks and warning signs.

Considered one of the greatest made-for-TV movies of all time, “Brian’s Song” is the story of Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo, his friendship with teammate and Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers, and how the married father of three’s life was tragically cut short.  What many may not know is that the 26-year-old pro football player died of testicular cancer. 

“The interesting thing about testicular cancer is that it’s a disease of young men,” said Geisinger Urologist John Danella, MD who calls it the most common cancer in men ages 15 to 35 even though it only makes up about 2 percent of all cancers in the U.S. “Usually the earliest presentation is just a lump that forms in the testicle itself. It’s usually not painful and it progresses slowly over time.” 

Testicular cancer can spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body. That’s what led to Piccolo’s death in 1970. “Back in the ’70s, patients who had testes cancer especially if they presented when it was already advanced, most of them died,” said Dr. Danella. 

Since then, advancements in chemotherapy regimens make testicular cancer highly treatable. Cyclist Lance Armstrong, former major leaguer John Kruk, and Olympic gold medal winning figure skater Scott Hamilton are all testicular cancer survivors. “If you present in an early stage, 99 percent of the patients are cured and even if you present with regional metastases 80 plus percent of patients are cured so that’s really, you know, much better than most cancers.”

Risk factors for testicular cancer include undescended testicles, fertility problems and family history. Dr. Danella recommends young men do a self-exam in the shower about once a month. He says even though most masses in the scrotum are not cancerous, bring to your doctor’s attention any abnormality you feel.