April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month

Testicular cancer is one of the most treatable cancers according to the American Cancer Society (cancer.org). This is a unique opportunity to shift our focus to men in a different age bracket than we typically serve. These men are between the ages of 20 – 35 and are typically Caucasian. Survival rates are at 95% over 5 years. The greatest challenge with diagnosing testicular cancer is often related to social stigma and delaying assessment. The disease itself is when cancer cells grow in the testicles, the male reproductive organ. These organs are found in the scrotum where sperm and testosterone are produced. Men may experience infertility and variations in the hormone production of testosterone that may lead to seeking medical attention. A lump may be present and is often painful which may also lead to seeking medical attention. Routine physicals are critical in early identification as well as routine self-assessment.

There are two forms of testicular cancer: non-seminomas and seminomas. The non-seminoma type grow and spread more quickly. The seminoma type tends to be more responsive to radiation and treatments. Patients may experience pain in their lower back, being short of breath, possibly having a cough, belly pain and recurrent headaches. Treatment plans often work to address these symptoms.

Home health services may be a resource to support rehabilitation after initial treatments and aid the patient in returning to meaningful activities of daily living, including accessing occupational therapy for returning to social and sexual health. Physical and occupational therapy may also be resources for rehabilitating elements of mobility and self-care that may have changed as a result of radiation or surgical intervention. Finally, accessing a social worker may support the mental health and management of stigma men experience with this disease.

Though rare, access to palliative services or hospice care may become a resource if the cancer has progressed to a terminal illness. Our role in this instance is to support the patient and their family in end-of-life decision-making and optimizing life despite the disease.