Beating Testicular Cancer: One Man's Story

IMAGE Testicular cancer. Just the thought of it causes fear and apprehension. But thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, even patients with later stages of the condition have promising cure rates. Paul, 42 years old, holds an advanced degree in chemistry. Cofounder of a New England research company, he's been married for 15 years and has three daughters. Before he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in March of 1997, he had no major health problems. Here, Paul describes that diagnosis, his successful treatment, and how it has affected his life.

Question: How did you discover you had testicular cancer?

Paul: In late February of 1997, I became aware of a ridge on the outside edge of my right testicle that seemed new, which was noticeable as I held my penis while urinating. After waiting about a week, I made an appointment with my internist, because I was afraid that it could possibly be a tumor. He had me give a urine sample and told me it was probably only an infection, but strongly suggested a follow-up with a urologist 'just in case.' He asked if I had a regular urologist. I didn't, so he personally scheduled an appointment for me with a urologist at a local hospital for the next day. Needless to say, his urgency in making the appointment, although he acted like everything was fine, was very unsettling.

Question: What happened when you met with the urologist?

Paul: He told me that I had no infection, and that he wanted to rule out some possibilities with an ultrasound. When I came back into his office, he immediately without any preliminaries stated that I had a malignant tumor. In retrospect, I realized that both he and the internist were 99% sure of my diagnosis immediately upon examination. One of the hallmarks of testicular cancer is a marked disparity in testicle size. The afflicted one is usually much smaller, which was the case with me. I remember being surprised when the urologist asked me if my testicles were always so different in size.

Question: What was your first reaction when the urologist gave you the news?

Paul: It was as if I, and everything around me, was suddenly moving at 1000 miles per hour. I was very concerned with possible outcomes and particularly with statistical cure rates which vary widely for the different possible tumor types. I also wanted to know if a biopsy would be done to confirm the diagnosis. The urologist said that no biopsy would be done because based on the ultrasound he was almost 100% certain that the tumor was malignant, and that a biopsy might spread the cancer. I felt an enormous, pervasive fear, as well as an incredible focusing and narrowing of perspective.

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