PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — When a 25-year-old man in otherwise perfect health is diagnosed with cancer, it raises questions.
Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon’s suspected testicular cancer has brought up a lot of questions about that particular type of cancer. Taillon’s case, if confirmed, might be surprising, but not uncommon.
Testicular cancer is a young man’s cancer. Over the past decade, the incidence has gone up by about one percent, though deaths from the disease are declining.
It is the most common type to affect men 20 to 35 in a specific body part.
The first symptom is often a lump on the testicle. It develops because of genetic abnormalities in certain cells there.
Blood tests and ultrasound can help with diagnosis.
Taillon’s suspected diagnosis adds him to the list of several famous professional athletes who have had testicular cancer – among them Penguins player Phil Kessel, cyclist Lancer Armstrong and baseball player John Kruk. It’s not more common among athletes, but something that’s more likely noticed because of their job and their age.
“If they have trauma in the area, then they’re more likely to do an exam in the area, and discover an abnormality,” says Dr. Shailen Sehgal, a urologist at St. Clair Hospital. “Athletes are more likely to be young men. You might see a correlation between athletes and testicular cancer because athletes fit into that demographic more commonly.
“I do tell my patients that if they fall into that age group, that they should do testicular self-exams in the shower about once a month,” Sehgal said.
Some risk factors for testicular cancer include undescended testicles, family history of testicular cancer, cancer in the other testicle, and HIV infection. It is more common in Caucasians.
Of the 9,000 new cases per year, about 400 men die.
This type of cancer is very sensitive to chemotherapy, and cure rates run 90 to 95 percent.
After treatment, patients will need lifelong follow-up, usually with check-ups, blood tests, x-rays and CT scans.