Testicular Cancer Patient Advocate, Navigator or Health Advocate
The concept of patient advocacy in its current form was developed in 1950’s as the treatment of cancer patients grew more and more technically complicated, as a means to make the voice of the patient more readily heard. In today’s world of constantly evolving medical techniques, treatments, and services, the average individual cannot be expected to be thoroughly acquainted with any and all this material. So it becomes the function of the testicular cancer patient advocate to perform a variety of services to ease the burden of the patient, and their family, as they learn to deal with every aspect of the disease.
The primary concern of the testicular cancer advocate is to support the cancer patient in all aspects of life with the disease, whether they be physical, emotional, or financial. An advocate can assist the patient in investigating available treatment options and educating the patient on the efficacy of each of them, be it pharmacological or surgical. By educating the patient, the advocate can be of great assistance in helping them make an informed decision about their course of action, and the possible side effects and outcomes. Support may also involve recommending counseling services for the patient, and their family members, to help them cope from day to day. Testicular cancer patient advocates may also be of assistance in helping the patient, and their caregivers, deal with any physical debilitation resulting from the disease, and its treatment.
Another aspect of testicular cancer patient advocacy is assistance in navigating the financial aspects of treating the disease. An advocate can act as a liaison between the patient and his or her insurance company, assuring that the patient receives any and all benefits to which they are entitled. When one is dealing with a serious disease, it is quite easy to lose track of other aspects of your life. An advocate can help to seek out sources of assistance which can ease the financial burden of the patient.
Education is also a major function of a cancer advocate. Both the patient, and their caregivers, are often in need of information about how the disease will affect their lives, both during its progression, and in its aftermath. Patients must be informed about how their condition will affect their mobility, the ability to care for themselves, and if they will be left with any permanent impairment to their lifestyle. Caregivers need to be instructed in mechanisms, or techniques they must use to cope with the patient’s daily care, such as injections, proper care of surgical dressings, etc.
The cancer patient, above everything else, needs to know that there is someone in their corner. Someone who will help them find their way through the confusing, and sometimes daunting, world of modern medicine. Someone who will have their best interests in mind as they face challenges presented every day in their struggle to find, secure, and finance the best treatment available.
What is Testicular Cancer?
Testicular cancer is rare and when discovered early the treatment is usually effective. Even when found late, compared to other cancers, the prognosis is still good. There are two major types of this cancer.
1. Seminoma. This is a less aggressive form of testicular cancer. It affects males of all ages. When old people have testicular cancer, it is almost always this type.
2. Non-seminoma. This type is seen early in life and spreads fast. There are sub-types that include choriocarcinoma and teratoma among others.
The symptoms are localized as well as systemic. Locally there may be:
· Swelling in one or the other testicle.
· Pain in the testicle or scrotum
· Hydrocele (fluid collection in the scrotum)
· Heaviness in the scrotum.
Symptom away from the testicles include:
· Abdominal pains
· Groin pain and
· Back pains.
· Symptoms in other parts of the body where the cancer may have spread may be noted.
Causes and Risk Factors
Most of the cancers in the testes start in the germ cells that are responsible for spermatogenesis. It is not known what triggers this change but certain factors favor their development. These risk factors include:
· Undescended testis unless corrected early in childhood can develop cancer. But still the risk after surgery may still be there. It is noteworthy that many people who have this cancer had no undescended testis in the first place.
· Genetic disorders like Klinefelter’s syndrome.
· Family history of the cancer
· Age. Mostly affect the young up to age 35.
· Whites are affected more than blacks.
· Testicular ultrasound scan
· CT scan
· Blood tests for cancer markers.
· Testicular biopsy
· X-rays of various parts that the cancer may have spread to.
Cancer treatment can affect the ability to be a father. For this reason it may be necessary to bank sperms if parenthood is a desired goal.
Surgery is almost always inevitable. Depending on the stage, it may involve removal of the testicle alone or together with the surrounding lymph nodes.
If the cancer is suspected to have spread, then radiotherapy will be done. This procedure enhances the clearance of any cancer cells that may have escaped the surgery.
Chemotherapy. This is a better option where cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. Since the drug gets into the system it is able to get to the cancer wherever it is. Some of the drugs approved for testicular cancer include Blenoxane, fosfamide, Cisplatin and Vinblastine sulfate.
High dose chemotherapy is used in cancers that have recurred. Stem cells harvesting is done before the chemotherapy. After treatment the stem cells are taken back into the body – stem cell transplant.
Part of treatment may also include emotional support since many men find it hard to live without their testes.
U.S. Statistics for Testicular Cancer
· It is the commonest cancer in the U.S for those aged between 15 and 35.
· The American Cancer Society estimates for 2015 are that there will be 8430 new cases
· 380 men will die of the disease.
· The lifetime risk of getting the disease is low at 1:263
· Average age at diagnosis is 33 years. 7% of all cases are above 55years while another 7% are children and teenagers.
· Risk of death from the cancer is about 1:5000