Testicular Cancer Diagnosis? Start Here.
Editor’s Note: This blog features quoted excerpts from our 2021 podcast interview with testicular cancer survivor Jonathan Sommers, part of our special podcast series “Young and Diagnosed,” focused on the unique challenges and experiences of young adults facing a cancer diagnosis. Jonathan is a filmmaker who serves on SWOG Cancer Research Network’s Digital Engagement, Patient Advocate, and Adolescent Young Adult Committees. He is also a Board-Certified Patient Advocate and founder of Tikkun Patient Advocates.
Jonathan Sommers had recently moved to Los Angeles and was pursuing a career path in screenwriting when life seemingly came to a halt. At age 27, he received a testicular cancer diagnosis.
In our podcast episode “Young and Diagnosed: Encountering the Unexpected,” recorded in September 2021, Jonathan described the events leading up to his diagnosis 9 years earlier. He also recalled the first moments after his urologist delivered the news:
“All of a sudden, what I had planned — my path — stopped,” he said. “The trajectory was like, uh-uh, not going to happen. That was a hard thing to wrap my head around. It takes a while for young adults to realize that.”
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Testicular Cancer?
Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that an estimated 8,000-10,000 men will develop testis cancer each year, and the chance of developing the disease is about 1 in 270 men. The average age at the time of a diagnosis is about 33. This means that many men with testicular cancer are young adults, part of a group known as AYAs (adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15-39 who are diagnosed with cancer).
If you are facing a testicular cancer diagnosis, you may experience a range of feelings such as shock, loneliness, sadness, worry, or fear. Three important things you can do to gain control of your journey are:
- Ask questions
- Seek support
- Find connection
Not sure where to start? Keep reading to learn more about Jonathan's story and resources that can help you.
Ask Questions & Consider Your Options Carefully
It’s common to feel overwhelmed after receiving a cancer diagnosis, be it testicular cancer or another cancer. Often, there are different treatment options to consider, and tough decisions to make. It’s important to talk with your healthcare team about your questions and concerns. This includes discussing possible side effects of testicular cancer treatment, such as fertility issues. If you haven’t received treatment yet and would like to have children after testicular cancer, talk with your doctor about fertility preservation.
Learn About Treatments for Testicular Cancer
Just a day after his own diagnosis, Jonathan faced a “bombardment of options” as doctors discussed bloodwork, tumor markers, and imaging tests. “It was just too much for the mind,” he said. Questions raced through his mind: “How am I supposed to know any of this?... And wait, what is in-network and out-of-network? And am I going to miss work?”
Jonathan found comfort in conversations with his doctor, a testicular cancer survivor who offered compassion and reassurance. “That relationship defined my successful treatment,” he said.
Three days after his diagnosis, Jonathan underwent surgery to remove the testicle that the tumor was found on. “For the type [of tumor] that I had, they weren’t sure if it spread. There was a chance it did spread, and there was a chance it didn’t,” he explained.
After consultations with his therapist and with his doctor, Jonathan opted to undergo a retroperitoneal lymph node dissection. In the days leading up to the procedure, "one thing I really wanted was to connect with others who had been through it,” he said. “It felt like I was drowning, and I wanted a life raft for someone to say, ‘Hey, I’ve been there. This is what it’s like, this is what you could expect.’”
Connect With Others
Join our online community for people who are navigating cancer in their lives. Share your stories and ideas & find hope and inspiration from others like you on our discussion forums.
Find Support & Connection to Feel Less Alone
After receiving a cancer diagnosis, many people experience a range of emotions that may change quickly. Life changes — including at work, school, or home — also may feel hard to manage. Coping strategies, counseling, and other emotional support resources can help.
Here are just a few options:
- Speak to a therapist who has experience working with cancer. Or, ask your healthcare team if they can connect you with an oncology social worker.
- Join a support group. Find a caring and supportive CSC or Gilda’s Club location near you.
- Ask your healthcare team about community programs for people impacted by cancer.
- Contact our Cancer Support Helpline by phone at 888-793-9355 or online via our chat service. We provide free navigation for cancer patients or their loved ones.
Fortunately, 10 days after his successful surgery, Jonathan received the news that he was cancer free. Still, his immediate recovery after surgery was physically challenging, and he also later faced the emotional toll of a cancer diagnosis. He acknowledged that navigating cancer as an AYA can be an isolating experience.
The good news is there are ways to cope with feelings of isolation.
For Jonathan, “My answer is connecting. The more we can connect with each other, the easier it becomes for AYA patients.”
Hear more about Jonathan's cancer experience and his advice for young patients in our podcast: