Need a good excuse to get into Movember? The charity endeavour - which involves you growing a moustache for the month of November - shines a light on illnesses and diseases that affect men, including testicular cancer.
It has been in the news recently after 32-year-old Cardiff Blues rugby player Matthew Rees was revealed to be taking a spell away from the sport after being diagnosed with testicular cancer.
It most commonly affects young to middle-aged men, and over 2,000 men are diagnosed with it in the UK.
Research conducted by the UK’s male cancer charity, Orchid, earlier this year revealed that 75% of UK teenage boys aged 14 to 18 are unaware of their higher risk of testicular cancer and aren’t checking for symptoms.
Considering that when diagnosed, testicular cancer can be treated effectively - there is a 98% chance of survival with treatment if caught early - it seems critical that everything is done to check for the disease.
Rebecca Porta, chief executive of Orchid said: "Most of them don’t know this is something they need to look at, whereas young girls are very aware about breast cancer. Testicular cancer is the biggest cancer for young men between 15 – 35."
Are some people more prone to it than others? Like a lot of other cancers, a lot of the reasons are unknown but it could be that genetics plays a role. If your brother or father had it, there is a possibility that you may get it too.
"We know that Caucasian men are more likely to get it," says Rebecca, "and there are other possible reasons - if you've had a history of mumps or a severe blow to the testicles. But there's nothing conclusive."
Undescended testicles, says the NHS, is the most significant factor in whether a person develops testicular cancer later in life. For some children, they say, the testicles fail to descend - it is called cryptorchidism.
"Surgery is usually required to move the testicles down. If you have had surgery to move your testicles down into your scrotum, your risk of developing testicular cancer may be increased.
"One study found if surgery is performed before the child is 13 years of age, their risk of later developing testicular cancer is approximately double that of the rest of the population. However, if the operation is carried out after the boy is 13 years of age, the risk of developing testicular cancer is five times greater than that of the rest of the population."
The good news is that when detected early, there is a 95% chance of full recovery - it's called one of the most 'treatable' types of cancer. But what symptoms should you be looking out for?
- A dull ache or sharp pain in your testicles or scrotum, which may come and go
- A feeling of heaviness in your scrotum
- A dull ache in your lower abdomen (stomach area)
- A sudden collection of fluid in your scrotum (hydrocele)
- A general feeling of being unwell
- Dragging sensation in 29% of cases
- Breast swelling or tenderness (called gynaecomastia). This is rare but may be caused by hormones, which are produced by some types of testicular cancer
- Enlarged lymph nodes in the back, which have enlarged due to spread of cancer
If you notice a lump in your testicles - don't panic. You should see your GP but bear in mind that only 4% of testicular lumps tend to be cancerous.
How do you check your testicles? Orchid advises: "Get to know your balls. Every time you are in the bath or shower examine each testicle - that way you’ll spot any changes. Also, roll each testicle between your thumb and forefinger to check that the surface is free of lumps and bumps - don't squeeze!"
- Every day 6 young men are diagnosed with the disease in the UK – that’s over 2,200 cases every year.
- It is twice as common as it was 20 years ago
- Signs and symptoms include a mass in the testicle, a change in the size or texture of the testicle and a heaviness in the scrotum
- A recent study has shown a correlation between smoking marijuana and an increased risk of aggressive testicular cancer
If you are diagnosed with testicular cancer, what does the treatment involve?
This depends on the type of cancer you have - whether it is a seminoma or a non-seminoma cancer, and also at what stage you have been diagnosed. The first course of treatment will include removing the testicle which contains the tumour - called an orchidectomy - this will also be followed by a course of chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
This may sound extreme - but you will still be able to have children with one testicle, and the survival rate of removing the testicle is very high.
Compared to the 1960s, when the survival rate was 6%, now you have a very good chance of beating the disease thanks to developments in cancer drugs.
The Institute of Cancer Research says: "Carboplatin has become a standard treatment for a common sub-type of testicular cancer called seminoma. For seminoma patients, a single dose of this drug has proved to be as effective at treating testicular cancer as two to three weeks of radiotherapy, with the added benefit of fewer side-effects. It also allows surgeons to remove just the affected part of a testicle, rather than the whole organ."
Green tea is rich in the polyphenol EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), which has been shown to slow the spread of breast cancer cells, <a href="http://www.breastcancer.org/tips/nutrition/supplements/known/green_tea">according to breastcancer.org</a>.
Garlic is considered a cancer-fighting food for several forms of the disease, <a href="http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/prevention/garlic-and-cancer-prevention#r12">according to the National Cancer Institute</a>. One French study found that women who regularly ate garlic had <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9928867">a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer</a>. Garlic's mild cousin, onions also had a protective effect, according to the study.
Pomegranates are known for their anti-cancer properties, thanks to a richness in anti-inflammatory antioxidants, polyphenols. But they may offer a specific benefit against breast cancer: research shows that a phytochemical found in abundance in pomegranates, called ellagitannins, interfere in the production of aromatase, an enzyme that, as HuffPost blogger Dr. Nalini Chilkov explained, "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nalini-chilkov/pomegranates-cancer-fighting-_b_1078343.html">increases hormone production in breast tissue</a>." That's important because breast cancer is hormone-dependent, meaning that it feeds off of hormones like estrogen to grow and spread. "Hormone dependent cancers such as breast cancer are commonly treated with aromatase inhibitors, which block this enzyme," wrote Chilkov.
Although preliminary, research in mice has found that <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110901163921.htm">including walnuts in a healthful diet throughout the entire lifespan</a> reduced the risk of developing breast cancer by <em>half</em>.
Curcumin, the compound in turmeric, may play a role in blocking the expression of a molecule called RANKL, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nalini-chilkov/turmeric-health-benefits-_b_828856.html">which is found in the most deadly and aggressive breast cancer tumor cells</a>.
Berries have several powerful antioxidants, primarily anthocyanins and ellagic acid, which have been shown in cell culture studies to <a href="http://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/blueberries.html#research">reduce free radical damage to healthy cells</a>, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. In separate research, they were shown to slow the growth and shorten the lifespan of breast cancer (as well as mouth, colon and prostate cancer) cells.
Most research regarding flax's anti-cancer properties has been done in mice or in-vitro cell cultures, but what it shows could be profound: in one study, according to the American Cancer Society, <a href="http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/ComplementaryandAlternativeMedicine/HerbsVitaminsandMinerals/flaxseed">the lignans found in flax slowed the movement and "stickiness" of breast cancer cells</a>, causing it to spread more slowly in a cell culture simulation.
Tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which is thought to <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39726407/ns/health-cancer/t/what-you-should-eat-avoid-beat-breast-cancer/#.UHNMJvmMG5M">slow breast cancer cell growth</a>.
Broccoli And Broccoli Sprouts
Cruciferous vegetables, but broccoli in particular, make for anti-cancer powerhouses thanks in part to a compound called sulforaphane that actually helps the body fight the spread of tumors. Recent research revealed the underlying reason: sulforaphane may inhibit an enzyme, called an HDAC, that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/29/broccoli-cancer-sulforaphane_n_1310634.html">works to suppress the body's tumor fighting ability</a>, as we've previously reported. And sprouts are even more potent: three-day old broccoli sprouts have 20 to 50 times the sulforaphanes as mature broccoli, <a href="http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/press/1997/sept/970903.htm">according to Johns Hopkins research</a>. For more about the cancer fighting properties of <em>all cruciferous vegetables, check HuffPost blogger Dr. Joel Fuhrman's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joel-fuhrman-md/cancer-prevention_b_1624965.html">analysis of cabbage, brussels sprouts, bok choy and more</a>.