Marc Curlewis was 30 when he started to feel a squeezing pain in his right testicle. “I knew that something was wrong so I decided to check it out. My GP initially suspected an infection so he put me on a course of antibiotics.
“That did not help so he recommended that I see a urologist who later discovered a 2cm by 4cm tumour,” he recalled.
After tests, it was confirmed that the Joburg IT-specialist had testicular cancer – news he admits he was not ready for.
“I was young and it never crossed my mind that the pain could be due to cancer.
“I started thinking about the future… about the family that I wanted to have.
“When I heard that my testicle was to be removed I got worried that this could affect my manhood. But after more research and lots of reading I realised that other men and celebrities such as Lance Armstrong had survived testicular cancer and were leading normal lives,” he said.
Men’s cancers such as testicular cancer are receiving attention this month as June is celebrated as Mens Health Month.
For this year’s men’s health campaign, the Cancer Association of SA (Cansa) has called for men to invest in their health as the risk of cancer was high in this group.
One in eight South African men have a risk of getting cancer in their lifetime.
The top cancer that affects men in South Africa is prostate cancer, Kaposi sarcoma (type of skin cancer), lung and colorectal cancer.
Elize Joubert, Cansa chief executive, said it was also important to know about other cancers affecting men, such as testicular cancer, which was common in young men between the ages of 15 and 39.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) related cancers including penile and anal cancer were also common, with most of these cancers transmitted through sexual contact.
“Most men know that prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers, with a lifetime risk of one in 27. We hope to encourage men to not only be aware of the known cancer dangers, but also to educate themselves about other cancer risks, such as those of lung, colorectal, skin, testicular, anal and penile cancer,” Joubert said.
Now 35, and having been cancer-free for five years, Curlewis is cancer-free and leads a normal life.
As a cancer survivor, he now advocates for NGOs such as Cansa and encourages men to go for regular screening.
As part of Men’s Health Month, about 30 Cansa care centres, including nine mobile clinics will be screening to help men identify cancer risks.
These include prostate specific antigen test, which is a fingerprick blood test to help detect prostate abnormalities; education on self-testicular exams, and colorectal cancer screening, which tests for concealed blood in stool.