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Testicular Cancer

How testicular cancer affects you

Most men became aware that something was seriously wrong, either during the ultrasound scan, or later, when the urologist identified a tumour in the testis. One man said that during the time of investigations he 'went numb', suppressed his feelings, but expected the worst.

 

Recalled that he suppressed his feelings while he waited for the results of the tests.

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Age at interview: 46
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 44
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Well, I think I started to shut down, sort of suppressing feelings really, I just went numb. As I went on and on, and through these different appointments and tests, I just began to shut down. I realised from the start that there was something wrong but nobody was telling me that. I think I was trying to believe that there was nothing wrong, you know, that's why they weren't saying anything; no news is good news sort of thing. But deep down I knew there was something. And I never got emotional, I never openly sort of worried about it, but I think I just shut down you know expecting the worse.
 

When they heard the diagnosis several men said that they cried, either with the doctor, their families, or on their own.

 

Recalls the shock he experienced when he was told that he would have to have a testicle removed.

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Age at interview: 33
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 26
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And I think I sat at work on a Tuesday and the phone rang and a doctor rang. It came through from reception, rang me, said that there was a bed ready for me on Thursday and when I asked what that was for he said "To have your testicle removed." So I went straight in.

What were your feelings at that stage?

At that stage I said "Right okay," asked him what time and everything and he said a letter would be coming through the post that day. I put the phone down, got up, went into the toilets where I worked and cried. I remember saying, why me, at one point, I think when I put the phone down I said, why me, but I remember getting up and going into the toilets and crying. I was working in an office with 7 chaps so it was, I was surrounded, wasn't on my own in an office where it wouldn't have been so bad, but I was surrounded by people. And although I'd worked with them for a long time it's a different kettle of fish when you're talking about that sort of thing.

Did he give you a diagnosis over the telephone?

He didn't give me anything he just told me that I was going to be having an operation on Thursday morning and it was to remove a testicle. And nobody had mentioned it up to that point at all.

Awful.

So I was just thrown in to complete shock. I went to the toilet, cried my eyes out, came back to my desk and I carried on I think for some strange reason.
 
 

Recalls that he hid his emotion from the doctor when given the diagnosis.

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Age at interview: 35
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 30
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Yeah I've always been the sort of person that's always fought things, I've always, not physically fought but you know always been proud of the way that I get on with things and I've always been, you know want to see the funny side of things really. And I actually said to the doctor at the time when he told me, he said, " You are allowed to show some emotion." And I just said, "Doctor, look I'm a Leeds United supported, I get worse news than this every Saturday." And he said "Are you sure you're alright, do you want people, me to ring people?" I said, "No, no I'll do it." And he went out of the room and when he went out the room I burst into tears and I don't mind admitting it, yeah.

However, men's reaction varied widely. One man, who only waited four days between his first consultation with the urologist, and the surgery to remove a testicle, said that at the time he didn't have any feelings because everything happened so fast it 'didn't really dawn what was going on'.

Men we spoke to had different reactions to the diagnosis depending on their age, whether or not they were in a relationship, and whether or not they had children already. One young man, for example, who was diagnosed aged 15, feared he might not be able to have children (see 'Fertility'). 

Some men we interviewed feared the worst because they didn't know that testicular cancer is highly curable, and they had known other people suffer from other forms of cancer. One man was terrified because his mother had died of cancer.

 

Remembers that he was terrified when he was diagnosed with cancer.

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Age at interview: 34
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 34
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When I first sort of realised that actually sort of my worst fears had been confirmed I was, I was a complete mess quite frankly. I have never felt such a strong fear in my entire life, so far as I was concerned I was going to die and I'm only 34 (laughs), I'm too young to die. And just trying to get that out of my head took quite a lot of effort, it just, I don't think I really got it out of my head until after the operation. I was absolutely petrified. It is the worst feeling you can ever have in the world, it really is because if you're going to die the best way to go is (clicks fingers) like that. My grandfather died of a heart attack in his sleep, if I go that's how I want to go. He never knew about it. With cancer you know about it, it can take, it can take, it can take years and it's not the most pleasant way to go, it can be extremely painful. I mean just watching my mother go was not, you know that was hard. And I had that reminder constantly and as soon as you know, as soon as I was diagnosed as being cancer I thought that's it, I'm going the same way that my mother went.
 

Some men were devastated when they heard the diagnosis. For example, one young man, aged 24, who had a lump removed from his neck, almost fainted when told it was a secondary tumour, which had spread from the testicle.

Waiting for surgery could be a difficult time. During an ultrasound examination a man was told he had a cyst in the testicle. Later, his urologist told him that it could be either a blood clot or a tumour. While waiting six days for surgery to remove his testicle he tried to deny any serious implications. However, he slept badly and had nightmares.

 

While waiting for surgery he tried to put it out of his mind, but didn't sleep well and had...

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Age at interview: 29
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 28
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I didn't sit down and cry and get any sort of emotional release. I must admit I didn't sleep very well and I had a few nightmares about what could happen. And I think a lot of people, well certainly me, you think of the worse as opposed to the best. And just sort of tried to deal with it. And I was almost living a little bit in denial even up to the, right up to the point where I thought to myself, right okay I'm having it out but it probably isn't that bad, it probably isn't, and even if it is you know I can get on and do this. And I was using that as a defence mechanism, almost trying to put it to the back of my mind and you know let it happen. Because I'm of the view that there's nothing that I can physically do about it until, so why, I know it's very easy to say but why worry about it? And I really did manage to push it to the back of my mind and that was certainly the easiest way for me to deal with it because I knew that I was in the best hands, that certainly the emphasis on testicular cancer has risen quite a lot, you know even from two or three years ago. And that's one of the things the urologist said. He said "Five, ten years ago you might have had to wait six months for this operation," but now as I said I got it done in ten days.

Which year is all this?

This year, 2001.
 

Another man, who knew he had cancer, said that the four days between the diagnosis and the surgery were the worst days of his life, because he imagined a monster growing inside him.

 

Asserts that the worst part was waiting for surgery and imagining that the cancer was a monster...

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Age at interview: 50
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 39
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I mean the worst thing for me was the four days between finding out that I had testicular cancer and the operation. The thing that I personally found the worst, and other people might find it different, was the fact that there was something growing inside of me that wasn't part of me. That was the worst thing for me. It was the image I had of this horrible monster thing, sort of like out of a 1950s Boris Karloff horror movie, this spawned monster thing growing inside of me, slowly eating away at me. It was 4 days, they was the most horrendous 4 days in my life but once the, once the tumour was removed and once I started on the chemotherapy I felt better because I knew that it was over. Look the success rates in testicular are in excess of 90%, in excess of 90% means that it is totally curable, that's if you get it treated.

Even though men we spoke to were told that the cure rate for testicular cancer was excellent, many worried that they wouldn't survive. One recalled feeling isolated and depressed. Some thought about possible death, and focused on things that they still wanted to do in life.

 

Recalls his feelings of shock, depression, and isolation when diagnosed with cancer.

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Age at interview: 36
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 29
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Well initially it's a great shock, your whole life is just turned upside down. You think you're going to die for a start, and it doesn't matter what the, what the medical people tell you, that it's 98% survival rate, or 96 whichever percentage they quote, because the only thing that is going through your mind is that you're going to be the 2 or 4% or whatever that don't make it. And that's normal I presume, everybody seems to, everybody I've spoken to seems to think that way. And you feel very isolated, you feel slightly cut off from everybody else, because everybody else is just carrying on normal life, and you've got this thing hanging over you. Every emotion as I've said before seems to run at the same time, you seem to be elated in a strange sort of a way, you're shocked, depressed, everything, everything seems to run at the same time, and it's very difficult to explain how you feel. Anybody who's been through it will know exactly what I'm talking about.
 

Finding out that the cancer had spread was also a terrible shock. When first diagnosed with testicular cancer, one young man, born with only one testicle, was mainly concerned about his sex life. However, when he learnt that the cancer had spread, he told us the news was 'really devastating'.

 
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Recalls that after the initial diagnosis he was mainly concerned that he would not be able to...

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Age at interview: 26
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 24
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And the immediate blow was, in fact it actually felt like a punch in the chest, because we, still at this point I didn't realise any, I didn't realise any of the sort of, any of the medication they had like testosterone injections, I didn't realise that these things existed. So immediately, my immediate thought was well basically that it [sex] was just all over, you know that I was going to lose the power to, well just lose my sort of manhood and I just thought it was all over. But the doctor saw, I mean I think he saw the look on my face of just complete horror and then of just, you know complete sadness. And I don't cry, I've yeah you know I've cried like five or six times in my life and you know this day I just broke down. And the doctor, I mean I pulled myself together in about five minutes and er the doctor sat down and he spoke about you know testosterone injections or testosterone gel that you can rub on your body.
 
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Describes his shock and devastated feelings when he heard that the cancer had spread to his groin.

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Age at interview: 26
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 24
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But yeah, he told me over the phone that they had tested it [a lump in his groin], and it was cancer, and that I needed to arrange to sit down with him and just arrange the chemotherapy and then, yeah, and it was just devastating, I mean it was really, it was really devastating because up until then it had all, it had all been, to me it had all been about the sexual side of things, you know it was just before when this all started I was just worried about losing my manhood and I never really thought too much about mortality. And now because this had nothing to do with that side of things and my life was sort of pretty good, do you know what I mean? I'd, you know I'd just got a job as well, I'd just got a job, I'd gone back to being a chef and I'd been working for about three weeks, and I just couldn't believe it.

Although the diagnosis came as an awful shock many men were reassured by the excellent cure rate. Indeed, as men recovered and realised that they were going to survive, many suggested that cancer had had a positive effect on their lives (see 'Attitude to life').

 

Explains that learning about the high cure rate was reassuring.

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Age at interview: 53
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 49
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Well I was worried but not over, I don't know, I wasn't as worried as I thought I would be, I was, yeah I was worried you know I think anyone would be worried but I'd read, I had read about it which helped because I knew about it. Knowing about it I knew if you caught it early enough and you did something about it straight away the chances of getting over this were very high which er to me was, took away a lot of the worry, though I was still worried as anyone would be because there's always that margin there that it won't work.
Last reviewed December 2017.
Last updated December 2017.
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