Navigating Life After Testicular Cancer
Testicular cancer changes the course of life for those who’ve undergone successful treatment, which, fortunately, is usually the case. Becoming a survivor is a feat on its own, but moving forward, many things will need to be altered in one’s life. Below we’ll provide tips on how to successfully navigate life after testicular cancer.
Follow-up Treatment and Care for Testicular Cancer
After you’re finished with your treatment, your doctor will still want to closely monitor your progress. Make sure to keep all your scheduled follow-up appointments. During these appointments, your doctor will examine you and ask you if you’re having any problems. You may also be asked to have follow-up tests, such as lab tests and/or imaging tests, such as a CT scan and chest x-rays, to look for signs of cancer or side-effects from your cancer treatment.
Long-term Side Effects
Radiation treatment and some of the chemo drugs used in the treatment of testicular cancer have side effects, some of which are long-term. While some of these side effects last for a few weeks or months, others can last for the rest of your life. Talk with your doctor about the long term side effects you may experience, which include:
- Lung scarring
- Kidney damage
- Heart and blood vessel problems
- Nerve damage
- Hearing problems
- Secondary cancers
Changes in Fertility After Testicular Cancer
Your fertility may be affected if you’ve had testicular cancer, but here are things you can do to manage these fertility changes. If you plan on having children, you can use a sperm bank to store sperm before being treated for later use. After chemotherapy treatment or radiation therapy, avoid trying to have children for about six to 12 months until your sperm are healthy again. You may need to have a sperm analysis test to determine this. If infertility appears to be permanent, it’s important to talk with a counselor or family member about how you’re feeling. You may have mixed emotions about how this will affect your future.
Effects of Testicular Cancer on Intimacy
After treatment for testicular cancer, it’s common for your sense of intimacy to change. Make sure to talk with your doctor and partner about how you’re feeling and work together to arrive at a resolution. Below, we’ll outline the different treatments and how those options can affect sexuality.
After having one testicle removed or both, which is rare, it’s possible to have sex normally. Some of the side effects of this can be erectile dysfunction, ejaculation problems, and low sexual desire.
Following chemotherapy, most men experience loss of sexual desire and the ability to get an erection, but function normally returns in a couple of weeks. Although it hasn’t been proven to be detrimental, traces of chemotherapy drugs can be found in the sperm for weeks following treatment. For this reason, it’s recommended that a condom be used during this time.
Most of the time, radiation therapy shouldn’t alter your ability to have an erection or an orgasm. But if it’s given in the pelvic area, radiation has the potential to damage key nerves and arteries, which can lead to a softer erection. Radiation therapy can also lower testosterone levels, but they usually return to normal within six months of treatment. If not, your doctor may recommend testosterone replacement therapy.
You Don’t Have to Survive Testicular Cancer Alone
Feeling depressed, anxious, or worried is normal when cancer becomes part of your life. Some people experience more of this than others. During this time, you can benefit from the support of your friends and family, support groups, religious groups, counselors, or others.
If you have questions or would like to learn about life after testicular cancer, look into the Baptist Health Cancer Survivorship Program today.