‘Check your balls,’ leading Mersey cancer specialist urges young men

A leading cancer specialist is urging young men to get past the embarrassment of discussing their private parts amid soaring rates of testicular cancer.

Zahed Khan, a consultant in medical oncology at Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Wirral, is making the call following new research in January showing the disease can be treated
with fewer rounds of powerful chemotherapy drugs, reducing side-effects.

According to Cancer Research UK, testicular cancer rates have risen 28% since the early 1990s and now there are six new cases being diagnosed every day. And, unlike many
cancers, testicular cancer is most prevalent in men aged 30 to 34.

Mr Khan treats both NHS patients and those at Clatterbridge Private Clinic. His extensive knowledge and skills will be key to the success of the new Clatterbridge Private Clinic opening in Liverpool next year.

Survival rates

He said that survival rates for testicular cancer rise significantly if the disease is caught early and so persuading young men to learn how to spot the possible signs
of the disease via self-examination, could literally save their lives.

“While most cancers are happening in older people some cancers are predominantly affecting young people which are related to their growing body and organs. Testicular cancer
is one such cancer,” said Mr Khan.

“It is rare before puberty and also far less frequent above 50 yrs. There is no recommended effective screening system to help young people and yet two-thirds of cancers
are diagnosed in stage one which is the earliest stage of the cancer.

“What is really important is to encourage young people to rise above the embarrassment in seeking medical help.”


Mr Khan recommends patients who are on follow up or surveillance to perform self-examination every week or at least every fortnight. And while
he adds there is no recommendation to do the same for the normal healthy population except when there is a risk factor, he says regular self-examinations are definitely a good thing.

He explained: “I recommend having a feel of tour testis now and then in the shower for lump, swelling,
pain, heaviness , asymmetry – basically anything that doesn’t feel right, anything that they have felt different compared to their own normal feeling.

“More important would be to get medical help as soon as possible for any symptom related to testis. Would also recommend not being embarrassed to talk to parents, family,
partners and seeing your doctor.

“It is understandable to be embarrassed in talking about symptoms related to private parts. I know lots of my patients were being pushed forward by their wife/partner or girlfriends to see a doctor. I always tell the medical students who come for clinical placements to encourage the male members of their families.”

Early diagnosis

Stressing how critical it was to get an early diagnosis, Mr Khan said that although the overall prognosis is significantly better for all stages
of testicular cancer in comparison to any other cancers, the earlier it is caught the less treatment is needed and morbidity rates lower.

He added: “For earliest stage of cancer (close monitoring for cancer rather than chemotherapy/radiotherapy) surveillance is an option for lots of patients which means avoiding
the potentially serious treatment related side-effects and complications. Survival is best for stage one in comparison to stage two or higher stages.”

Main treatments

Surgery to remove tumours from male testis is a common treatment at all stages of the disease alongside either chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Chemotherapy is the primary treatment
in all advanced stages along with surgery. And chemotherapy is also the primary treatment in the vast majority of recurrent cancer.

Mr Khan said the role of radiotherapy has reduced over time. It can be used as a radical treatment in early stage cancer. More often this is
used to treat cancer spread to the brain or bone where chemotherapy reach is limited.

“There has been no recommendation from various learned bodies for routine screening of healthy males due to its relative rarity,” he added. “However, to be aware that this
is the commonest malignancy of males aged between 15 and 35 is important and to seek medical advice asap for any localised symptoms related to testis.”