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.

April is National Oral Cancer Awareness Month

Mouth and throat cancers are complex. They are often not viewed as critical, but consider that these forms of cancer take the lives of at least 24 people daily. The longevity of these conditions is about 60% for 5 years. Frequently, these people are living with physical disfigurement, difficulties eating and speaking, and social stigma. The death rate is high in this form of cancer due to being found late in the progress of the disease. A critical piece of prevention is accessing regular dental visits. Dentistry is uniquely skilled to review structures in the mouth and identify abnormalities. The care team that is involved once oral cancer is identified usually adds professionals in oncology, otolaryngology, and oral surgery.

Home health services are critical in the management of oral and pharyngeal cancer. Skilled nursing and speech language pathology services are frequently ordered to support management of recovery after chemotherapy and radiation. Therapy services often address changes to the eating patterns and unique speaking needs that result from physical changes to the mouth and throat. The patient and family often benefit from occupational therapy services to aid in supporting a return to independent living in the home, and social worker services support the psychosocial changes a person may experience after medical interventions that result in physical and image changes. These services are critical for the patient to return to meaningful daily living.

Palliative services may be provided along with home health while the patient is still pursuing curative treatments. The role of the nurse practitioner and medical assistant are to support the patient in navigating a vast healthcare system. They work with the patient to identify changes in wants and needs in the disease progression.

Hospice services are often brought in during the last 6 months of life to support the patient and family. Services at this phase often support the critical decisions made at the end of life. Skilled nursing, social work, chaplain services, and home health aides are critical members of this team. They guide and direct the care to make meaningful living a priority.

If you would like more information on oral cancers, check out oralcancerfoundation.org and aaoms.org