Routine Physical Uncovers Nate Solder's Testicular Cancer

NFL Super Bowl Champion encourages young men to have themselves checked for this cancer.

New England Patriots left tackle Nate Solder announced in April 2015 that he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in April 2014, just a few months before starting the 2014 NFL season.

Solder, 27, was diagnosed when his doctor felt something abnormal around one testicle during a routine physical examination. An ultrasound and surgery to have the testicle removed was performed three days later. As Solder told ESPN:

"I knew nothing about it. It was a complete surprise. You Google something like that and it kind of scares you, so I was like, 'I'm not going to freak out about this.' Had I not had a routine physical, I probably wouldn’t have checked it, saying, 'Oh, it’s just in my head, I’m going to be fine.'"

Despite the diagnosis and surgery, Solder played in all 16 regular season games and in the playoffs, including Super Bowl XLIX. Many of his teammates were unaware of his diagnosis.

Solder spoke during Testicular Cancer Awareness Month in April 2015, and he hopes that he  can educate others about the importance of early detection. As he told ESPN:

"I was completely healthy, I’m a professional athlete. It can happen to anybody. Make sure you get yourself checked out, especially young men, because that’s who it’s really targeted toward."

A Dozen Things to Know About Testicular Cancer

  1. Testicular cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of one or both testicles.
  2. It is the leading cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 35, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
  3. The American Cancer Society’s estimates for testicular cancer in the United States for 2015 are:
    • About 8,430 new cases of testicular cancer will be diagnosed.
    • About 380 men will die of testicular cancer.
  4. There are two main types of testicular cancer: seminomas and non-seminomas.
  5. Both kinds of cancer originate from the testicular germ cells but grow and spread differently and are treated differently. Germ cells are cells that contain the genetic material which an organism can pass on to its offspring.
  6. Non-seminomas tend to grow and spread more quickly than seminomas.
  7. Seminomas are more sensitive to radiation.   
  8. Risk factors for testicular cancer include:
    • Having had an undescended testicle (a testicle that stays in the abdomen instead of coming down into the scrotum before birth).
    • Having had abnormal development of the testicles.
    • Having a personal or family history of testicular cancer.
    • Being Caucasian.
  9. Possible signs of testicular cancer include swelling or discomfort in the scrotum.
  10. Other symptoms of testicular cancer include:
    • A painless lump or swelling in either testicle.
    • A change in how the testicle feels.
    • A dull ache in the lower abdomen or the groin.
    • A sudden build-up of fluid in the scrotum.
    • Pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum.
  11. Cancer stage at diagnosis, which refers to extent of a cancer in the body, determines treatment options and has a strong influence on the length of survival. In general, if the cancer is found only in the part of the body where it started, it is localized (sometimes referred to as stage 1). If it has spread to a different part of the body, the stage is regional or distant. The earlier testicular cancer is caught, the better chance a person has of surviving five years after being diagnosed. For testicular cancer, 68 percent are diagnosed at the local stage. The five-year survival for localized testis cancer is 99 percent, according to the NCI.
  12. Certain treatments for testicular cancer can cause infertility that may be permanent. Patients who may wish to have children should consider sperm banking before having treatment. Sperm banking is the process of freezing sperm and storing it for later use.

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