10/21/2013 06:35 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Get to Know Testicular Cancer

I love scrolling through the Huffington Post iPhone app while I eat breakfast and get my daughters ready in the morning. It's a quick and easy way for me to get snippets of the news and to find out what is important to people this week. Recently I came across a post featured in the Huffington Post's Gay Voices section highlighting this NSFW video.

For those of you who are unable to watch it, the video features the Wolverhamton Wolverines rugby team volunteering themselves for an on-air testicular self-examination and was put together for two reasons: 1) to raise awareness about testicular cancer and promote self-examination and 2) to raise funds for Balls to Cancer, a non-profit charitable organization that uses its funds for male cancer awareness, education and research.

My own personal experience with testicular cancer has given me the opportunity to step up and be an advocate for testicular cancer patients, survivors and caregivers everywhere. When I read the video's accompanying article, I was sorely disappointed to read the author's implication that this disease affects gay men disproportionately. While the video emphasizes the importance of self-examination for all men, the article did not include a written description of the self-examination process featured on the video nor did it include any information regarding who is at risk for this disease and who is most affected. What the article did include was a link to a US News health article highlighting a study (though not referencing it by name nor providing a link to it) suggesting that homosexual men are more likely than other males to have been diagnosed with cancer and then to have survived it. This US News article claims that gay men "face a higher risk of anal, lung, testicular and immune-system cancers" but provides no scientific data to back its claim; it merely suggests that the backing exists. The bottom line is that testicular cancer is a man's issue, not just a gay man's issue.

Balls to Cancer, the Wolverhamton Wolverines and myself all have a common goal: to raise awareness about who is at risk for testicular cancer, to provide accurate information on performing self-exams and to provide information on how to recognize the early signs and symptoms of the disease. So because the aforementioned articles failed to provide critical information about testicular cancer, I have complied a list of some of the important facts that all men should know about the disease. Links to the organizations providing this information are absolutely included but for more information you should contact your doctor or health care provider.

• Testicular cancer mostly affects men aged 15-45 years old, although men of all ages may be affected, and is a relatively uncommon form of cancer accounting for only 1% of male malignancies in the United States.

Some men are at greater risk for developing testicular cancers than others. Men who are at higher risk include teens and young adult men, white men, those with an undescended testicle, those with abnormal testicular development and those with a family history of testicular cancer.

• Performing testicular self-examinations at home once a month is encouraged. Here's a fantastic article from the Livestrong Foundation providing instructions on how to do it.

Early signs and symptoms of testicular cancer may include but are not limited to:
  • a swollen testicle
  • a lump on a testicle
  • a feeling of heaviness or aching in the lower belly
  • tenderness or an aching feeling in the scrotum

• The three main methods for treating testicular cancer are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, though a doctor should decide the exact course of treatment of the disease.

Testicular cancer has a 95 percent five-year survival rate and a five-year survival rate of 99 percent when the cancer has not spread outside of the testicle, which makes this type of cancer one of the most curable forms of cancer.

Cancer sucks and it is important to be informed. There is a lot of information out there about testicular cancer and other cancers that affect men, so do your research, be informed, talk with your doctor and do what you can to help advocate for awareness.

If you've been diagnosed with testicular cancer, check out this awesome support group.

To read more about Karen's experience with cancer, read her personal blogs here, here and here.