There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about testicular cancer. These misconceptions can give people a lot of fear and anxiety about getting a diagnosis and their outcomes. Here are five of those myths, debunked.
1. It’s a death sentence
It’s understandable why some people might think this. The word cancer can be scary. It’s a challenging illness and one that you’ve likely seen claim a life or two, maybe even within your own family. But testicular cancer is actually one of the most treatable forms of cancer, with 91% surviving testicular cancer for 10 years or more (Cancer Research UK, 2021). Compare that with lung cancer, one of the most common forms of cancer, which only has 10% surviving after 10 or more years. The reason why testicular cancer is so treatable is because removing the affected testicle stops the cancer in its tracks. This can be quite scary for some, however, it is not always a death sentence.
2. I can NEVER have kids
This is one of the concerns survivors have. After all, sperm are made in the testicles and if one or both of them are removed, then that’s it, right? No more sperm, no more procreation. But that isn’t always the case. Usually, only one testicle is removed, so the other testicle is free to take over in its sperm-creating duties. Most people who have had one testicle removed find that their sperm count returns to its baseline normal after a short while. If this is not the case, it is suggested that you talk to your doctor about banking some of your sperm before you undergo treatment, especially if you are doing chemotherapy. Then, at least, the option is still there for if or when you’re ready to have children (American Cancer Society, 2021).
3. Say goodbye to erections FOREVER
This is a very understandable fear to have. Sexual performance can be very important for us, whether it’s through masturbation or during sex with a partner. Therefore, after hearing about testicular cancer, one can assume that it will have an adverse affect on your sex drive and ability to get and maintain erections. Luckily, it’s very rare that you’ll lose your sex drive after testicular cancer treatment. After all, one testicle produces enough testosterone to maintain your sex drive. If, however, your hormone levels are abnormally low then it is possible to get other treatments, like hormone replacement therapy to replenish your testosterone and get everything back in working order (American Cancer Society, 2021).
4. Only old people get cancer
It also makes sense to have this line of thought. After all, if you’re young and healthy, then you’re less likely to get sick. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. According to the American Cancer Society, testicular cancer can affect someone at any age but it does seem to be more common in younger people than in older people. People in their late teens and in their late 30s have higher rates of incidence than older age groups. But, as previously stated, treatment for testicular cancer has an extremely high rate of success and the chances of getting testicular cancer are much much lower than other forms of cancer. Only one person out of every 263 will get testicular cancer during their lifetime (American Cancer Society, 2021).
5. Getting kicked in the nads is gonna give me cancer!
Maybe you know somebody who’s gone through testicular cancer and they swear they got it after they went horseback riding on their honeymoon or after years of riding a bike or when they got knocked while playing a game of football. The stories are seemingly endless – but that’s just what they are, stories. Anecdotal evidence might seem compelling but it’s not statistically significant. The only accurate risk factors for testicular cancer are a family history of the disease or previously having testicular cancer and there have been no studies that can link previous injury to the testicles as an important risk factor (Cancer Research UK, 2021).
The most likely culprit for this myth is good old fashioned reporter bias. People who have been diagnosed with testicular cancer are much more likely to think about potential incidents that may have caused it and any injuries to the area would quickly come to mind. That’s not to say you should ignore any injuries to your groin! When in doubt, you should always consult with your doctor about your concerns.
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Genevieve Wight is a volunteer at Willingness. She is currently completing her masters in Health and Medical Psychology at Leiden University in the Netherlands.
American Cancer Society. (2021). Testicular cancer. American Cancer Society. Retrieved November 10, 2021, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/testicular-cancer.html.
Cancer Research UK. (2021, September 28). Testicular cancer statistics. Cancer Research UK. Retrieved November 10, 2021, from https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/testicular-cancer.