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Young men at risk for testicular cancer

Though rare for the general population, cases of testicular cancer are the most common form of cancer for American males between 15 and 34 and can cause infertility or death.

“We usually have one or two cases a year,” said Ayse Turkseven, director of Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital’s Cancer Center.

Hospital records show 30 recorded cases at the Grass Valley facility between 1996 and 2007.



The good news is the cancer “is highly treatable,” according to the Mayo Clinic’s Web site and normally only attacks one testicle.

The disease comes from germ cells that produce immature sperm. Why the cells become abnormal and turn into testicular cancer is unknown.




Like most cancers, the earlier testicular cancer is found, the better, according to Dr. David Kraus, a radiation oncologist at the cancer center.

“If you catch it early, the survival rate is above 90 percent,” Kraus said. People are often embarrassed to get it checked out,” Turkseven said, because doctors have to touch the testes to find the lumps that might indicate the cancer.

The lumps that could lead to the full cancer are often after a young man gets a groin injury, and a doctor is examining them, Turkseven said.

That’s why the Mayo Clinic and Kraus encourage young men to check themselves in the shower for testicular lumps about once per month. Kraus also urges men to have their doctors check for lumps during annual physical examinations.

“Any mass or pain in the testicle should not be ignored,” Kraus said. “It’s so curable when it’s early and causes more therapy when it’s advanced.”

When a testicle lump is found and an ultrasound confirms a mass, the patient is referred to a urologist, Kraus said. If the urologist determines the mass is a malignancy, the testicle is removed.

“There should be no loss of fertility or sexual ability if the other one is healthy,” Kraus said.

Once the testicle is removed, it is checked to see which of the two types of cancer it contains. The two are seminoma, which is sensitive to radiation and nonseminoma, which is a tumor that is more aggressive and often calls for chemotherapy.

Though the testicular cancer death rate is not high, most come from the nonseminoma type, Kraus said.

“Nonseminomas have the ability to show up in other places in the body,” Kraus said. Former Tour De France bicycle champion Lance Armstrong had nonseminoma and had chemotherapy to arrest his spreading cancer.

“Lance is living proof of the power of chemotherapy,” Kraus said.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail moller@theunion.com or call 477-4237.

Testicular cancer, signs and symptoms

A lump or pain in the

testicle

A heavy feeling in the

scrotum

Dull ache in groin or abdomen

Fluid collection in scrotum

Tender or enlarged breasts

Unexplained tiredness or malaise

– Information from the Mayo Clinic


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