Testicular Cancer

Delays in seeing a specialist

The cure rate for testicular cancer is exceptionally good. More than 96% of men with early stage testicular cancer will be completely cured (NHS Choices 2015). Most men can now be completely cured, even if the cancer has spread beyond the testicle. However, some types of tumour spread more rapidly than others, so it is important that men seek help as quickly as possible. If the tumour is Stage 1, completely contained within the testicle, treatment is easier and less toxic than if the tumour has spread to other parts of the body.

Sometimes delay is caused by a man's reluctance to visit his GP. It is known that there may be various 'triggers', such as pain, that encourage people to seek help, or reasons that prevent a rapid consultation, such as embarrassment, or denial.

Sometimes symptoms were unclear, and men delayed seeking help until their wives, girlfriends, or parents encouraged them to seek help (see 'Signs and symptoms'). 

One man explained that he delayed seeking help for two years because he did not feel any pain, he felt fit and healthy, because it was hard to take time off work, and because it was an embarrassing problem.

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Another man said that he delayed seeking help for 18 months, because he did not want to face the fact that he was ill. He said that men do not like to make a fuss, or to be seen as weak. Another man explained that he delayed seeking help because he did not wish to be a hypochondriac.
One young man delayed seeking help because he only had one testicle and wrongly feared that if the other testicle were to be removed he would no longer be able to have sex. He did not realise that hormone replacement therapy would restore his levels of testosterone (see 'Hormone treatment').
Past experience of illness can also influence the decision to seek help. One man remembered that when his mother had been seriously ill with cancer he had been falsely assured that she would get better. He was afraid of cancer, particular metastases (tumour spread), and didn't realise that, even if testicular cancer has spread, it is usually curable. He couldn't face the diagnosis and so delayed seeking help.
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One patient delayed seeking help for six months. When he was eventually examined by the GP he found the examination painful, so didn't keep his appointment with the urologist, so more delays occurred.
One man delayed consulting a doctor because, at his University Health Centre, those waiting to see a doctor could hear all that was said inside the doctor's office. 

Delay in reaching an urologist may also occur because of misdiagnosis by a GP. A number of men said that their GPs hadn't referred them rapidly to an urologist because the diagnosis was difficult to make (also see 'Signs and symptoms'). Sometimes men were given false reassurance by their GPs, even when a lump could be felt. Men felt they should trust their GPs and were reluctant to question their doctors' judgements.

Administrative delays also occurred, which added to the problem of patient delay and misdiagnosis.
Last reviewed August 2015.
Last updated August 2015.

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