AUSTIN -- Testicular cancer has seen an alarming 60 percent increase over the last four decades according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute. Just as surprising as the dramatic increase is the primary age range of those getting the disease.
It was during a CrossFit workout session when Thomas Seuthe suspected he had injured himself. That was three months ago. He's since learned he didn't suffer an injury; he had an illness -- testicular cancer.
"It was a complete shock," said Seuthe. "I think the biggest problem in having been diagnosed with cancer is not knowing how bad that cancer was."
Seuthe is one of about 8,400 new cases of testicular cancer in the last year.
"That rate has doubled over the last 40 years," said Richard Garza, M.D., a radiation oncologist with the Austin Center for Radiation Oncology.
As surprised as the 47-year-old Seuthe was to learn he had the disease, he was equally surprised to learn that this type of cancer doesn't usually form in men his age or older.
"Testicular cancer is definitely a cancer of younger men," said Garza.
Garza says men ages 15 to 35 are mostly likely to get testicular cancer.
"It's the number one incidence of cancer in that age group," he said.
It's the reason Seuthe wanted to bring his 15-year-old son Carter with him to his most recent radiation treatment. Much like women are encouraged to talk with their daughters about breast self-examination to aid in early detection of breast cancer, doctors are now encouraging fathers to talk to their sons about self examination to help detect testicular cancer. Garza says any rough or hard nodule or pain or swelling not due to injury should be checked by a doctor. Of course, when it comes to the topic of self examination, boys will be boys.
"It's kind of like a funny topic to bring up," said Carter Seuthe. "Me and my friends have definitely joked about it. Not towards my dad but just about it."
"I think that's typical with teenage boys -- a little bit of joking," said Thomas Seuthe. "But I think when they take it home and talk to their parents about it, there's a little bit more serious tone to it. It may even educate the parents to be a little more diligent as well."
Carter agrees and says it doesn't take long for his friends to get serious when they learn teens as young as 15 are in the primary age range for testicular cancer.
"They pretty much just ask how serious it is and if anyone is going to be all right," he said.
Thomas Seuthe is expected to be all right. His cancer was detected almost immediately after it presented itself. Doctors say there's about a 99 percent survival rate for testicular cancer patients when it's caught early. Seuthe's radiation treatments are more a preventive measure as doctors attempt to keep any cancer cells from moving into the lymph nodes in the abdomen. He's just hoping having his son witness the treatment will encourage Carter to take the self examination recommendation seriously.
"My son is 15 years old, and that's when it starts," said Thomas Seuthe. "I don't want it to be ignored for three, four, five months, then we have other issues or cancer."
The rapid rise in testicular cancer cases reported by the U.S. National Cancer Institute isn't confined to this country. Research shows nearly identical numbers are being reported in four other continents besides North America. Doctors say those of Scandinavian descent are at the highest risk for developing the disease.
Click here for a link to the Austin Center for Radiation Oncology