I am 27 and married, but was 26 when I was diagnosed with testicular cancer (non-seminoma) last Oct 1995. I graduated from the University of Texas Medical School in June 1995, then joined the Army and my first assignment was to Ft Benning, Ga. Part of my "inprocessing" included a visit with a community health nurse. She informed me of two things 1) I should do monthly testicular self exams and 2) My cholesterol might be high. Well my cholesterol turned out to be normal, but it wasn't but about 3 months before I did a testicular exam and found a hard lump, about the size of a half peanut in my right testicle. I mentioned it to my wife, had her feel it (she didn't think she felt the lump), and then laughed it off saying "hope it isn't a tumor."
In my mind I knew this wasn't right but observed it for about a week or two. I managed to slip down to the urologist's office and tried to make an appointment. The receptionist said he was booked for 3 or 4 weeks but that since I was a medical type, I should ask him personally to work me in. I got my first appreciation for the urgency of the situation when he said, "Let me take a feel right now." He did a quick ultrasound, said it looked suspicious for a tumor (though not all are malignant -- to comfort me), and sent me for an ultrasound in radiology.
The ultrasound showed a mass in the right testicle. Things suddenly became a whirlwind as I was scheduled for surgery the next morning. I didn't hear half of what the urologist was explaining to me at the time and felt numb. I tried to remember anything I could about testicular cancer from school but couldn't remember much. I had an inguinal orchiectomy that showed a non-seminomatous tumor, mainly embryonal cell carcinoma. I recovered from that operation fairly quickly and even spent the night at home. The next day I had a CT scan of the chest and abdomen that showed maybe one slighlty enlarged lymph node in the abdomen. I discussed the treatment options with my doc and about everyone I could find. I found dozens of articles and textbooks. I finally decided (in accord with the majority) to have an RPLND and had that in San Antonio at Brooke Army Medical Center. That was an experience I will never forget...
Up until these surgeries I was a healthy young man, fairly fit and had never had an IV, nor surgery, stitches, an NG tube, a Foley, an epidural, spent the night in the hospital, etc. Now I have a great database of knowledge that I am not sure I would want to have NOT gone through. I learned a lot about being a patient and think every doc should have a similar experience.
My RPLND showed around 30 negative lymph nodes out of 30. I have had no signs of recurrence in the time since my surgeries. I am trying my best to keep all of my follow up appointments which is not easy ... even considering I work in the hospital and the doc pages me when he is ready to see me. I want to stress that Yes, testicular cancer is a very curable disease, but far too many men suffer relapses and even die because they have a few negative checkups and don't keep their follow up appointments. KEEP your follow up appointments even if it seems silly or like overkill.
If you have any questions please e-mail me. I would love to hear from you.
Editor's note: Scott has learned a lot about testicular cancer since his diagnosis. He's even been published. Click HERE to read his article in American Family Physician.