Testicular Cancer: From Yellow Jerseys to Operating Gowns – How Ordinary Blokes Save Lives

The last thing Italian cyclist Ivan Basso expected when he competed in the Tour de France this year was a cancer diagnosis.  But after a pile up in the fifth stage – he got checked out – and in that check up – was found to have a lump on his nut, now diagnosed as testicular cancer.

He’s not alone.

When people discover I’ve been involved with Embarrassing Bodies, I see wide eyes, grimaces, and an enthusiastic shouting of either “I love that show” or “eewww, I can’t watch that“.  But the overwhelming question that follows is “Why do people go on that show?”.

Slotted into the third episode of Embarrassing Bodies Down Under is a hands on testicular examination.  Dr Christian and I show two young Aussie blokes how to examine their own nuts (I even get down on one knee for it).  It’s not rocket science, but knowing how to do it correctly makes a massive difference.

These two blokes volunteered for that!  They volunteered to drop their dacks on TV!!! So that EVERYONE could learn and a powerful message be delivered.

By doing so, they sent that message to all blokes out there – there’s no shame, you’ve all got one or two of them, have a feel every now and then.  They put aside their embarrassment (shame) in the hope someone out there would start regular checks, perhaps find a lump, get it checked out, and maybe, just maybe…..save a life.

And you know what?  It has.

I know for a fact that one young Aussie bloke out there watched this episode, checked his nuts out, and found a lump.  That lump was cancerReal testicular cancer.  He’s lost his nut, journeyed through gruelling chemotherapy, and come out the other side.

Those two blokes saved his life.

So, some of the reasons people go on this show are to help educate, help break down stigma and shame, help dispell the falacy that doctors are judgmental or scarey. And maybe, just maybe, others get the courage to go see a doctor – sooner rather than later.

Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer is the most common malignancy in males between the ages of 15 and 35 years. The incidence of testicular cancer has been risinging over the past three decades, but it is relatively rare, accounting for only about 1 percent of cancers in ALL men, but a much higher proportion of cancers in YOUNG men.

Well-established risk factors for testicular cancer include a history of an undescended testis, a family history of testicular cancer, or a history of testicular cancer in the other nut.

Testicular cancers have few symptoms, often found incidently after a knock or blow to the groin (thats how Ivan Basso found it – after a crash and his nut was sore) which then leads the bloke to examine themselves, finding a lump, swollen testicle, or hardening of the testicle.  Some may just feel some ache or heaviness in the scrotum.

Thankfully prognosis is excellent with early diagnosis and treatment.  95% of testicular cancers are one particular type – which carries a 90%++ cure rate.  But the key point is – you need the right treatment pretty damned quickly.  Once diagnosed the testicle is usually removed within 24hours, and chemotherapy started within a week.  Move fast and the odds are WAY in your favour.

Blokes – Check your nuts out.  Please.

Ladies – Don’t be shy, you could help too you know 😉


Dr Sam.
July 2015