More and more men are developing testis cancer


A two-day Father's Day event will raise awareness about this form of cancer and its links with infertility

Don't buy your father another tie this Father's Day. Bring him to the Men's Health Day at Plaza Cote Vertu.

Testis cancer is on the rise. Testis cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting young men of reproductive age and is being diagnosed more and more frequently, according to Dr. Peter Chan, a reproductive urologist from the MUHC.

"Several groups of investigators worldwide have clearly demonstrated a rise in the incidence of testis cancer in young men in the past decade," said Dr. Chan. "This seems to be a global phenomenon."

To raise awareness of this form of cancer, Dr. Chan and his colleagues are organizing a two-day public event, called the MUHC Men's Health Day, at Place Vertu, 3205 Boulevard Côte Vertu in St-Laurent, on June 16 and 17.

"Like most diseases involving men's health, we do not hear much about testis cancer in the media. Had it not been for public figures like Lance Armstrong, we probably would have had little chance to make the public aware of this serious disease," said Dr. Chan. Lance Armstrong survived testis cancer with multiple metastasis, and subsequently won the Tour de France seven times.

"Men should definitely be more aware of diseases like testis cancer," said Dr. Chan. It can be easily diagnosed by an experienced physician. "The problem is that most men who have this cancer do not know what the symptoms are or what to look for. This is complicated by the fact that most men feel macho and do not like seeing a doctor, often delaying the diagnosis," said Dr. Chan.

"A hard mass in the testis may be the only thing men will notice. Unfortunately, since most testis cancer masses are painless, even when noticed they often just ignore them, resulting in a delay in the diagnosis and treatment. Delays in diagnosis are dangerous," said Dr. Chan. "Testis cancer tends to grow fast. When a diagnosis is made, surgery to remove the cancer has to be done within days. At the MUHC, we often remove the cancer on the same day of the diagnosis. This is how serious and dangerous this cancer is.

"Fortunately, with advances in cancer care, the survival rate of patients with testis cancer is excellent. Even in patients who have metastasis, more than 90% can expect long-term survival with a good quality of life thanks to the latest combination chemotherapy regimens we employ. This is unlike many other cancers we know," added Dr. Chan.

One of the most significant side effects of chemotherapy is infertility. Since men who have testis cancer are generally young and in their reproductive prime, the effect of infertility is a significant concern. "While fertility in many patients may not recover, others may still be able to produce some sperm. There are advanced assisted reproductive technologies, such as in-vitro fertilization, that can help them have children. However, there is still a concern that sperm recovered after exposure to chemotherapy may be genetically damaged. Using these sperm may potentially result in the woman miscarrying, low birth weight, prematurity, genetic defects and fetal malformation," explained Dr. Chan.

One way to preserve fertility in men undergoing chemotherapy is sperm cryopreservation, or sperm banking. "Sperm can remain stable when properly stored in an extremely cold environment, such as in liquid nitrogen," said Dr. Chan. "Since we cannot predict who will recover sperm and who will not, sperm banking should always be offered to patients prior to starting chemotherapy. Banking sperm gives an option in case no sperm can be recovered after treatment or if the sperm are all damaged. Patients can still use their banked sperm to have children."

Dr. Chan is one of the MUHC investigators funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) with a multi-million-dollar grant to study the toxic impact of chemotherapy on reproductive health in men. "This research program allows a multidisciplinary team of researchers, from geneticists to psychologists, basic scientists to clinicians, to study the reproductive health of patients undergoing treatment for testis cancer," says Dr. Chan. "The results of our large-scale study should be ready within two years. We expect the results to help clinicians establish guidelines on how to provide fertility counseling to young men who survive testis cancer."

To increase the public awareness of testis cancer, male fertility and other health issues in men such as prostate cancers, kidney and bladder cancers, and sexual dysfunction, Dr. Chan is joined by a team of MUHC urologists in hosting a two-day public event on June 16 & 17, called the MUHC Men's Health Day, at Place Vertu (3205 Boulevard Côte Vertu in St-Laurent). Participants can learn about these men's health conditions, meet with urologists, and have free cancer screenings. This event is open to the public, so you can bring your loved one to the MUHC Men's Health Day this Father's Day weekend at Place Vertu. The gift of health is one of the nicest Father's Day gifts any father could wish for.

About the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC)
The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is a comprehensive academic health institution with an international reputation for excellence in clinical programs, research and teaching. The MUHC is a merger of five teaching hospitals affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University—the Montreal Children's, Montreal General, Royal Victoria, and Montreal Neurological Hospitals, as well as the Montreal Chest Institute. Building on the tradition of medical leadership of the founding hospitals, the goal of the MUHC is to provide patient care based on the most advanced knowledge in the health care field, and to contribute to the development of new knowledge.

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