Testicular Cancer

How it affects others

It can be hard for people to know what to say when a friend or colleague tells them he has testicular cancer. Some friends try to lighten the atmosphere with jokes, but others say little, alarmed by the word cancer, and the mistaken assumption that recovery is unlikely.

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These interviews show how important it is for people to take the lead from the man with testicular cancer. For his part he may need to tell people that there are good prospects for a full recovery. 

Some men remembered that others, particularly older people, didn't know what to say when they saw them without their hair, because they linked loss of hair with cancer, and cancer with death. At times, both friends and family reacted in unsupportive and inappropriate ways. One man recalled that friends had crossed the road to avoid speaking to him.

Some men's younger friends were able to discuss testicular cancer openly. Friends and colleagues were often sympathetic, and wanted to know more about the symptoms. Perhaps recent improvements in treatment, and the excellent cure rate, combined with recent media attention, have made it easier for people to talk about the subject. 

Jokes about testicular cancer were common, and many men said that other people's jokes made it easier for them to cope with the illness, particularly when they were in hospital. They suggested that joking helped the conversation and reduced embarrassment. However, one man said that although jokes can be helpful because they 'lighten the situation', they sometimes 'dig a bit too deep'. He suggested that some men with testicular cancer might 'go along with the joke', not wanting to appear hurt, but actually feel upset.

Some men made jokes themselves about testicular cancer, partly because they found joking released tension and helped them cope with the situation. However, one man, diagnosed in the 1980's, said that other people were surprised when he joked about his condition. They assumed he was dying and found his joking quite upsetting.

Men's reactions to others comments depended on the context in which they were made. One man said that when he heard he was going to have chemotherapy he resented it when others made light of the situation or said something optimistic. He wanted other people to listen to him and to acknowledge that chemotherapy was going to be tough.

Many of these issues applied to family members as well as friends (see 'How it affects family relationships'). However, there are additional problems and also great opportunities for support within families.

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Last reviewed December 2014.

 

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