For a testicular cancer survivor, Darrel Mancini says he is lucky to be alive and knows it. He was diagnosed at 28 and detected a lump early.
Lucky in the sense that it didn’t spread and he was able to be the best man at his childhood friend’s wedding.
Lucky in the sense that he met the love of his life at the celebration.
Lucky in the sense that he was able to stand beside his friend’s son during his baptism and be called his godfather.
It’s been four years since Mancini has been cancer-free and he looks back with gratitude.
“There are a lot of things I would have missed out on,” the personal trainer and Movember ambassador told Global News.
It all started when he woke up with abdominal pain after a night of drinking. He didn’t think twice about it until the pain moved to his right testicle. He then felt a bump.
At first, he hesitated and retreated. He lost his father and grandfather to cancer. He saw with his own two eyes how the disease could excruciatingly strip the life out of someone.
So he waited. He waited for weeks to the point where he was tossing and turning in his bed. It wasn’t until after he met with one of his clients, who happens to be a doctor, that he understood that knowledge is power.
As he suspected, he got the bad news. He had testicular cancer. In that moment, his heart was racing.
“It was hard. I had to call my mom and tell her, and my dad had died a couple of years earlier. That was the last thing I wanted to do. That was what I was mostly worried about because I saw what that did to my dad.”
But the silver lining in all of this is that the cancer was contained and he caught it early. His testicle had to be removed.
When Mancini was originally diagnosed, he didn’t want to talk about it much. But as time passed, he slowly started to open up.
He has since become a Movember ambassador. Every year, he grows a moustache and helps raise funds for prostate and testicular cancer research.
And now, his message is loud and clear: he wants other men to be empowered by their health and get checked early for testicular and prostate cancer.
“If something doesn’t feel right, talk to people, open up to loved ones, seek medical advice when you need to because take it from me, it will save your life.”
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian men, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. It is estimated that about one in seven Canadian men will develop prostate cancer during his lifetime and one in 29 will die from it.
As for testicular cancer, the agency estimates that 1,100 Canadian men will be diagnosed and an estimated 45 will die from the disease, this year alone.
The most crucial thing about testicular cancer is self-diagnosing, Dr. Stuart Edmonds told Global News. You should be aware of your body and regularly check for lumps, the vice-president of research for Prostate Canada said.
The survival rate for testicular cancer is extremely high with early detection. If it doesn’t spread, it stands at 99 per cent. Treatment includes surgery or radiation.
“It doesn’t need to be an issue or life-threatening,” Edmonds said. If you get a testicle removed, the physical and sexual side effects are minimal, Edmonds added.
As for prostate cancer, getting checked by medical professionals when you hit 40 is important, Edmonds said.
To get tested for prostate cancer, the first step is to take a simple blood test called PSA that can be administered by a general practitioner. The PSA test measures the level of PSA in a man’s blood. If PSA levels are high, then it’s an indication that something is wrong. It is used an initial screening tool.
From there, you would be referred to a specialist where they would try to rule out everything. If doctors can’t find the cause, then they would do a biopsy, Edmonds said.
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If the biopsy comes back positive, then you could be facing three different levels of prostate cancer.
The first is low-risk. What that means is that you could continue living your life with cancer under strict supervision and monitoring.
The second is aggressive prostate cancer. This is when it is very advanced and there is a high likelihood that it would metastasize, move from the prostate to somewhere else in the body.
The idea is to catch cancer when it is still in the prostate, Edmonds said. One avenue to take is removing it all together.
Then the third category is intermediate. This is when doctors don’t know which way the prostate cancer will go. At that point, it will be the patient’s choice to either go on active surveillance or decide to go into surgery or get radiation.
The thing about removing a prostate is that it can have many physical effects on a man, Edmonds said. It’s wrapped in nerves and the urethra, which plays a pivotal role in sexual and urinal functions.
Although surgeons are becoming more and more skilled in removing the prostate, it is very challenging to avoid nerve damage, which can cause erectile dysfunctions, Edmonds said.
Nonetheless, informing yourself and taking charge of your health is key for survival, Edmonds added. He says it’s common for men to think they are infallible and brush off any health concerns.
“That’s a problem, it is seen as a stigma, which is wrong in many ways. We are over 20 years behind the whole breast cancer campaign.”
“You don’t want to get diagnosed when you display symptoms of the disease. The idea is to diagnose before you have any symptoms, and you can effectively act.”
Edmond recommends that men start getting checked for testicular cancer in their late teens to early 20s. As for prostate health, he recommends getting the PSA test regularly when you turn 40.