They’re young… vibrant… and have no hint there’s anything wrong — until the shocking diagnosis that they have cancer…
It hits many young men in their teens, twenties and thirties — people who think cancer is decades away for them, if they ever get it at all. But this particular cancer affects men under 40 almost exclusively. It’s NOT an old person’s disease.
In fact, this is the most common cancer in American males ages 15 to 34.
What’s more, this cancer is becoming more common, which may be due to increasing exposure to environmental toxins.
Worse yet, it has few symptoms that would give you any hint you have a problem. That makes it especially risky, considering most men at this stage of life aren’t on the lookout for cancer symptoms.
Read on for the few warning signs to watch for. They could help you save a son or grandson who doesn’t know better.
Continued below. . .
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Mystery pain in your lower back?
It could be a hint…
More than 90 percent of men with testicular cancer have no noticeable symptoms, not even pain. So if a man has any of the following symptoms, he should pay special attention. They give a clue…
A young man with unexplained lower back pain should have it checked out. Right away. It could actually be a sign that he’s got cancer and it’s already spread to the lymph nodes in his abdomen. Of course, back pain is pretty common so this isn’t the most effective warning signal.
And I wouldn’t be surprised if the typical doctor tells the young man to just go home and take an aspirin.
My advice: Don’t let them put you off. If a young man has reason to believe his back pain is unusual and unexplained, he should insist on a proper testicular exam.
Weak clues like this are about all you have to go on. Three out of four victims of testicular cancer have NO symptoms until the cancer is well advanced.
Of the few symptoms that do exist, most could also be caused by a virus or an injury. But since testicular cancer gives so few warning signs, a man should get any of the symptoms checked out immediately.
Now, there’s no need to be TOO alarmed. Only about 7,500 to 8,000 cases are found in the United States each year, and about 2,000 in the UK. It’s a pretty rare cancer. It’s also pretty curable. Conventional medicine claims a cure rate of almost 100 percent if the cancer hasn’t spread, and 80% even if it has spread.
All the same, who needs this problem? Young men under 40 should keep an eye out for the symptoms. Besides paying attention to back discomfort…
Conduct a monthly self-exam…
Just as women are urged to do a breast self-exam, men are also urged to do a testicular self-examination monthly. It could turn out to be the only early warning signal.
After a warm shower or bath, when the scrotum skin is relaxed, check for any lumps or abnormalities. Hold the penis out of the way and examine each testicle separately. Next, hold the testicle between the thumbs and fingers with both hands and roll it gently between the fingers. You’re looking and feeling for any hard lumps or nodules (smooth rounded masses). Or any changes in the size, shape, or consistency of the testes.
Be aware that a normal testis has an epididymis which may feel like a small bump on the upper or middle outside of the testis. Normal testicles contain blood vessels, supporting tissues, and tubes that conduct sperm, also. It is easy to confuse these with cancer at first. So ask your doctor if you have concerns.
A lump may be very tiny, the size of a pea or smaller. It could be painless or could cause a dull ache. Don’t discredit a painless lump!
And don’t ignore these other trivial clues, either
Any collection of fluid in the scrotum, feeling of heaviness in the scrotum, enlargement or swelling in a testicle, or discomfort or pain should also be checked out immediately.
Men should also pay attention to any enlargement or tenderness of their breasts. Certain types of testicular cancers — called germ cell tumors — can secrete high levels of human chorionic gonadotropin hormone (HCG), which stimulates breast development. Blood tests can measure HCH levels, and are an important diagnostic tool. So if you notice enlarged or sensitive breasts, ask your doctor to perform this blood test.
During the diagnostic process, your doctor will also take a medical history to assess risk factors and conduct a physical exam, in addition to the blood test for HCG and others.
Plus, the doctor will probably order an ultrasound (no radiation involved), and may also want a CT scan or MRI to determine the stage of cancer and whether it has spread.
Does your age, family, or race put you at risk?
Nearly everyone is born into a family with some sort of health issue. That doesn’t mean you should throw up your hands and give up. It does suggest you should go the extra mile to control the things you can — especially if you already face a disadvantage in age, heredity, race, etc.
Your risk factors for testicular cancer may include:
- Youth. If you’re between ages 15 and 39, you’re at the greatest risk.
- Family history. Your risk is greater if your father, brother, or other close relative has had testicular cancer.
- Previous testicular cancer. If you’ve already had it, you’re at greater risk of developing it in the other testicle.
- Race. Testicular cancer is more common among white men, especially those of Scandinavian descent. This cancer rate for Caucasians has more than tripled during the past 50 years — but has recently begun to increase among black men too. The reasons for the racial disparities are unknown.
- DNA-damaging radiation exposure before birth. A study on mice at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, published in PLoS ONE, found a link between baby boys exposed to radiation during early pregnancy and increased risk of testicular cancer. It is the first study to find an environmental cause of testicular germ cell tumors, the most common cancer in young Caucasian men.
- Congenital abnormalities. You may be at increased risk if you have an abnormality of the testicles, penis, or kidneys, or a hernia in the groin area.
- Undescended testicle (cryptorchidism). Your testicles should descend from inside your abdomen into your scrotum before birth. Your risk of testicular cancer increases if you had a testicle that did not move into the scrotum on its own, and even surgery to move it does not negate that risk. The increased risk applies to both testicles, not just to the one that didn’t descend.
But be encouraged — here are two factors you have a great deal more control over…
Is this fashion statement worth the cancer risk?
Unhealthy fashion statements are nothing new. While many of these relate to women’s health issues, this latest is a guy thing. And a health menace… skinny jeans. And it’s caught on big in certain cultures.
They may seem harmless enough, but wait…
Scientists now warn that they can cause bladder problems and testicular torsion (twisting).
A recent study of 2,000 British men showed that one in ten men wearing skinny jeans experienced testicular torsion from their skinny jeans. Yet others had serious bladder problems and chronic urinary tract infections.
The testicular problems occur because the jeans constrict free movement of the spermatic cord… which then gets twisted, causing testicular torsion. This cuts off blood supply and can lead to gangrene, low sperm counts, and possibly cancer. Until scientists know for sure, ask yourself if this fashion statement is worth the cancer risk.
And then there’s this recreational pursuit…
A new study from the University of Southern California (USC) in September, 2012, found a link between use of recreational (and medicinal) marijuana and increased risk of the types of testicular cancer with the poorest prognosis, as reported in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.
Scientists think that recreational marijuana use may be in part responsible for increasing testicular cancer rates. The researchers looked at the self-reported history of use of recreational drugs in 163 young men diagnosed with testicular cancer… compared to the rates of 292 healthy men of the same age, race, and ethnicity.
They discovered that the marijuana users were twice as likely to have testicular cancer subtypes called non-seminoma and mixed germ cell tumors. These subtypes carry a worse prognosis than the seminoma subtype.
This study confirms the findings from two earlier studies in Cancer on the potential link between marijuana and testicular cancer.
Is the treatment for this cancer
worse than the disease?
As we recently reported about prostate cancer, the treatment for testicular cancer can involve serious and long-term repercussions, as shown by a study published in the journal BJUI, and conducted at the University of Oslo.
Researchers reviewed 40 studies published between 1990 and 2008. They found drastic side effects that should give any man pause about conventional treatments.
- A staggering 30 percent who got chemotherapy suffered damage to their sensory nerves.
- Twenty percent of those undergoing chemotherapy suffered from long term hearing loss and ringing in their ears (tinnitus).
- A full 17 percent suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome — twice as high as the general population.
- Testicular cancer survivors endure 1.8 times the general risk of developing another form of cancer.
- Gastro-intestinal side effects are common to both chemo and radiotherapy.
- Chemo carries added risks such as infections and blood clots.
- Long term problems include secondary cancer, heart problems, and conditions linked to low hormone levels.
Cancer treatments can increase your risk of pulmonary complications, death from heart complications, fertility reduction and dry ejaculation.
All these complications can last for a lifetime (whether or not your doctor follows up that long).
Lead author Sophie D. Fossa stressed, “It is important to focus on reducing risks through healthy lifestyle choices and consider important issues like preserving future fertility…”
She adds that the best way to slash your risk is to maintain an active lifestyle and healthy weight, avoid tobacco, (and for doctors to “provide adequate follow-up for patients who could develop life-threatening toxicity”). Sounds like she could become an advocate for these alternatives…
Consider alternative treatments
The full range of cancer treatments we write about in Cancer Defeated can help you overcome almost any cancer, including testicular cancer. There’s little need for a special treatment for this type of cancer.
But we’ve learned of one approach that IS specific to testicular cancer: Heat treatments.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University think that heat therapy might be a viable treatment for cancer.
The testes are always a few degrees cooler than the rest of your body, making them an ideal location for cancer cells. This led Professor Robert Getzenberg and his colleagues to speculate that testicular cancer cells would respond well to heat treatment. They are now experimenting with heat-based methods of weakening cancer cells.
However, as health advocate Mike Adams points out, “You don’t need nanotechnology or other technical hocus pocus to generate heat and destroy cancer cells. Just engage in regular physical exercise that makes you hot and produces a healthy sweat.”
Simple. Are you doing it?
In our last issue, we talked about some exciting new tests and treatments for breast cancer — including a test that should soon replace mammograms. If you missed this important news, please scroll down and read it now.
The Beginning of the End for Mammography
and Other Invasive Treatments
By Mindy Tyson McHorse, Contributing Editor
Recent progress on the breast cancer front tells me we’re moving closer to more effective, gentler cancer tests and treatments. It may even be the beginning of a movement away from radiation-heavy screening tests and invasive techniques like biopsies.
Here’s the first round of good news: In September, the FDA officially approved use of ABUS — the Automated Breast Ultrasound System. What’s that? If you’re a woman you need to know, because it can DOUBLE your chance of finding breast cancer early. So keep reading. . .
Continued below. . .
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We first told you about ABUS in Issue #198 of this newsletter, pointing out it’s a lifesaver for women with dense breast tissue (that’s about 40 percent of women in the U.S.).
Mammograms are useless for detecting tumors in dense tissue, and women with dense breast tissue are four to six times more likely to develop breast cancer. So the test is of little use to the women who need it most. Mammograms aren’t even that useful for screening normal tissue, missing up to 15 percent of all cancerous lumps.
ABUS is important because it doubles the rate of early detection for women with dense breast tissue and triples the rate of detection for cancers smaller than 10 mm. And since early detection means a survival rate of 96%, ABUS just makes sense.
Now of course, the FDA only approved use of ABUS for women with dense breasts. And they haven’t completely kicked mammograms to the curb. The first sentence of their official approval statement is that they support ABUS “in combination with a standard mammography.” Even then, they say ABUS should be for women with dense breast tissues who’ve had a “negative” mammogram.
It’s a little ridiculous because ABUS can screen tissue of any type. The best information we have indicates it’s a better solution for almost any woman, because ABUS means no painful breast compression, no radiation exposure, and a more thorough exam than a mammogram.
Still, the FDA’s new stance represents progress. It even gives me hope the FDA will someday sever its ties with the radiology industry. At least we can hope.
Just note that ABUS approval doesn’t override the longstanding best way to find breast lumps: consistent breast exams from competent physicians. It’s been proven that the more time a physician spends conducting the exam, the more thorough the results.
In fact, one study showed that OB/GYN physicians found fewer lumps when compared to family practitioners, internists, and other physicians who conduct longer exams (and by “long” I only mean 10-15 minutes).
But lumps smaller than 1 cm across are tough for physicians to feel, no matter how long the exam lasts. That’s why the ABUS news is important. Plus, it takes a physician about five seconds to examine a woman’s breasts and tell her if the tissue is dense. And if that’s the case, an ABUS test is crucial.
The mechanical palpation that “reads” tumors
Another technique to keep your eye on: Elastography. It’s used by ultrasound technicians to spot malignant tumors. That translates into fewer biopsies, because it means you’re dealing with fewer false positives.
This is good news. Biopsies are invasive, cost as much as $1,000, and getting back results can take as long as two weeks. Worse, the pathway through the skin created by the needle makes it potentially easier for diseased cells to spread.
Elastography avoids all that. It’s one step up from traditional ultrasound because it actually takes two ultrasound images and combines them. The first image uses basic ultrasound techniques to penetrate the body with sound waves. The result is a fuzzy image (called a sonogram) of what’s inside your body.
Step two is where the ultrasound technician takes what’s called a compression image. If a breast tumor is suspected, the tech pushes slightly on the breast with the ultrasound emitter. This compresses the breast tissue while sound waves go through it. Because healthy breast tissue and benign tumors are more elastic, or softer, than malignancies, they’ll depress easily. Malignant tumors don’t depress at all. They can be anywhere from five to 100 times stiffer than a benign growth.
It’s the equivalent of a mechanical “palpation,” providing information on the flexibility of a tumor.
Once the two images are combined, the resulting two-part computer-generated picture tells us a lot more than a basic sonogram.
But here’s where it gets interesting — in 2006, an elastography study correctly differentiated between benign and malignant tumors with nearly a 100 percent success rate.
On top of that, doctors can read the results right away instead of making you wait weeks to learn whether a tumor is cancerous or not. The cost is only $100 or $200 per procedure and doesn’t require a pricey follow-up visit. And given that it’s non-invasive … there’s not really a good reason not to use it.
Elastography also shows incredible promise for diagnosing prostate cancer and a few other diseases, like cirrhosis of the liver (a disease where the liver hardens).
Cryogenics kill cancer cells
Elastography isn’t the only way to avoid biopsies. IceCure Medical, a company in Israel, is now marketing what it calls “IceSense3” to kill breast cancer tumors.
The procedure is like a nearly non-invasive biopsy. It uses ultrasound imaging to guide a hollow, extremely thin needle into a tumor. Liquid nitrogen is then used to inject radically cold temperatures through the needle to destroy the tumor.
The method only works on tumors that are detected early, but if you pass that hurdle it has several other advantages. It requires just a local anesthetic and can be done in 10-15 minutes. More importantly, it doesn’t leave women disfigured and with insanely large hospital bills.
It remains to be seen whether this method can prevent widespread metastases, since there’s always the risk a cancer has spread by the time it’s visible on a scan. But it’s better than a lot of the procedures out there.
Cancer recovery now in reach
It’s enough to make future breast cancer regimens look appealing: Easy tumor detection with ABUS. Clarification on whether a tumor is benign or cancerous through elastography. And then non-invasive cryogenic treatment on the tumors with cancer cells.
My advice? Ask about these treatments. Push for them. Demand them. The FDA is cumbersome in getting anything done, but who knows? Maybe the ABUS opinion is a sign that this beast of an organization will someday get on board with the future of cancer treatment.
Lee Euler, Publisher