Understanding Testicular Cancer
- April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, so we’re taking a look back at cycling star and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong’s magnificent career, the scandals that plagued it and how he’s rebuilt his life.
- In 1996, Armstrong was diagnosed with advanced-stage testicular cancer at 25 years old. He went through rounds of chemotherapy treatments, his last being in December 1996. He was declared cancer-free in 1997, and in 1999 returned to the cycling world and won his first Tour de France.
- Testicular cancer starts in the testicles; these organs are part of the male reproductive system.
- Testicular cancer is not common. In fact, about 1 of every 250 males will develop testicular cancer at some point during their lifetime.
The star athlete originally from Plano, Texas, has survived a great deal of hardship in his 50 years on this planet, including an advanced-stage testicular cancer diagnosis and a doping scandal. After years of denying his doping use, he finally admitted to it in 2013, further saying that he thinks it may have caused his cancer.Read More
Since April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, we’re taking a look back at Armstrong’s magnificent career, the scandals that plagued it and how he’s rebuilt his life.
Lance Armstrong’s Career & Cancer Diagnosis
Lance Armstrong, now 50, is a record-setter. In 1996, he became the first American to win the La Flèche Wallonne, a men’s professional cycle road race in Belgium, and won his second Tour DuPont, a cycling stage race in the United States held annually between 1989 and 1996, according to ESPN.
He had previously won stages of the Tour de France, a men’s professional cycling event widely considered to be the biggest sporting event in the world. But that same year, even though he only competed for five days of the competition, he went on to participate in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. There, he finished sixth in the time trial competition and 12th overall in the road race.
He was on top of the cycling world.
But his world seemingly came crashing down around him in October 1996 when the young star cyclist was diagnosed with advanced-stage testicular cancer. The cancer had spread to his lymph nodes, lungs, brain and abdomen. He was just 25 years old.
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“I intend to beat this disease, and further I intend to ride again as a professional cyclist,” he said when announcing his diagnosis nearly two decades ago in 1996. He did just that. Lance Armstrong went through rounds of chemotherapy treatments, his last being in December 1996. He was declared cancer-free in 1997, and in 1999 returned to the cycling world and won his first Tour de France.
“No day means more to me than this one,” he posted to Instagram on Oct. 2, 2021, 25 years since his cancer diagnosis. “Hard to fathom it’s been 25 years since I heard those dreadful words that millions of us have heard — ‘you have cancer.’”
“… I didn’t know if I would live 25 minutes, 25 hours, or 25 weeks. Truly blessed to have made it this far. What a journey it’s been and continues to be. Wouldn’t trade a second of it. To all who have hung in there through thick and thin, I love you more than you’ll ever know. And remember, it’s FORWARD never straight.”
“I hope it sends out a fantastic message to all survivors around the world,” Armstrong said to the crowd at the Tour de France finish line in Paris. “We can return to what we were before — and even better.”
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Lance Armstrong did a lot in 1997, as it was the same year he launched the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which was later renamed Livestrong. (*Cue to yellow “Livestrong” bracelets.) The organization was started to support cancer patients and research. That same year, Armstrong signed with the U.S. Postal Service cycling team, according to ESPN. (The team was later rebranded under a different sponsor, Discovery Channel.)
In the last 25 years, Armstrong has done a lot, to say the least. He’s further his advocacy work and even started a podcast called The Forward.
Understanding Testicular Cancer
Testicular cancer starts in the testicles (also called testes; a single testicle is called a testis). These organs are part of the male reproductive system. The two organs are each normally a little smaller than a golf ball in adult males, according to the American Cancer Society. The testes are held within a sac of skin called the scrotum, which hangs under the base of the penis.
Testicular cancer is not common, ACS reports. In fact, about 1 of every 250 males will develop testicular cancer at some point during their lifetime.
In contrast, since testicular cancer can usually be treated successfully, a man’s lifetime risk of dying from this cancer is very low — about 1 in 5,000.
While standing at the finish line of the Tour de France in 1997, Lance Armstrong was immediately asked about doping.
What’s doping? Doping is the use of banned athletic performance-enhancing drugs by athletic competitors. Armstrong denied the accusations that he was doping to boost his cycling performance.
However, in 2013 — after he was stripped of all of his achievements, including his Tour de France titles, in 2012 — the cyclist admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs for the first time during an interview with Oprah Winfrey. He admitted to doping during each of his Tour de France wins from 1999 to 2005.
In 2020, ESPN released a documentary, titled Lance, about the cycling star. (The documentary was made for the 30th anniversary of ESPN.) According to the Daily Mail, during an interview for the documentary, Armstrong again admitted that he took doping drugs, and had doped before he even won a major event. But he went further during the interview to say that the habit may have contributed to his cancer diagnosis.
“I don’t want to say no, because I don’t think that’s right either,” Armstrong said. “I don’t know if it’s yes or no, but I certainly wouldn’t say no.”