Army’s ‘Private Parts’ campaign aims to raise awareness of testicular cancer
Studies have shown that men are more likely to delay in approaching a doctor, particularly when they have an issue they view as embarrassing. The campaign by Orchid to make February ‘Male Cancer Awareness Month’ was therefore to be welcomed and supported.
The Army also launched a men’s health campaign to encourage soldiers to visit their doctor. A large part of this programme is encouraging men to check themselves for testicular cancer and attend their medical officer immediately if they notice any problems. The campaign may be lighthearted, including the mascot ‘Private Parts’, but raises important awareness about men’s health.
The facts about testicular cancer in the armed forces
- Between 1 April 2007 and 1 April 2015, there were a total of 9,028 UK Armed Forces Personnel who were recorded on Military Medical records as having a ‘testicular lump’
- Of those, 311 were reported as having ‘testicular cancer’
- 282 members of the armed forces had reference to an orchidectomy (see below) on their medical records
- Fewer than 5 members of the Armed Forces who had a reference to testicular cancer or a testicular lump in their records are also recorded as receiving chemotherapy
The facts suggest that in the majority of cases, testicular cancer is being caught and treated early. This means that most soldiers who were faced with a diagnosis of testicular cancer were able to make a relatively swift recovery and could continue with their career as planned.
Discovery and Diagnosis of testicular cancer in the armed forces
To ensure that testicular cancer can be caught early, it is important to self check and be aware of the symptoms. Regular checks are essential, so that you know what is normal for you. Checking yourself is quick, and can be done easily in the shower or when getting ready for work.
Check our interactive reproductive cancer resource for more information.
Unfortunately, sometimes there is a delay in diagnosis through no fault of your own. If a doctor fails to make a referral for an ultrasound, Stage One cancer could go unnoticed and not be discovered until it has grown or spread. As with any type of cancer, the stage to which tumour has developed to can affect the treatment plan.
Treatment for testicular cancer
If testicular cancer is caught at its earliest stage, surgery will often remove the problem on its own. This is called an orchidectomy, and is the most common treatment of testicular cancer. It involves removing the affected testicle or both testicles if the cancer has spread. Removal of one testicle in most cases will not cause impotency or infertility.
The surgery will be followed by ‘surveillance’, (unless there is a high risk of relapse) which is usually a weekly blood test to look for cancer markers At this stage any chemotherapy offered is often at a reduced dose with reduced side effects.
Once the cancer progresses to Stage 2, you will have either radiology or chemotherapy following the removal of the tumor. At Stage 3 chemotherapy is essential after surgery, often at a high dose.
Chemotherapy is known to have a variety of side effects, as well as the treatment itself being harsh and painful. Many of these side effects can seriously affect a career in the military. For example, many types of chemotherapy are known to cause hearing loss and tinnitus. Developing these symptoms often leads to a limited or non-deployable grading, and can in some circumstances lead to a discharge.
What can I do?
In some cases, chemotherapy and its side effects will unfortunately be unavoidable.
The best way to avoid the associated problems is to regularly self check and attend a doctor immediately with any issues.
Unfortunately, preventable damage can be caused if a medical officer fails to refer you for scans at the appropriate time. Our firm recently settled a case for an ex-Army Sergeant whose career was cut short due to side effects of chemotherapy which could have been avoided.
If you have attended a doctor and believe that the action or inaction of medical professionals has caused a delay in the diagnosis of testicular cancer and a change in your treatment plan, please do not hesitate to contact our team of experienced military solicitors for help and advice about bringing a medical negligence claim in a military environment.