Staying Healthy After Cancer
- Cycling star Lance Armstrong, 51, seems just as strong as ever nearly 30 years after battling advanced testicular cancer.
- Armstrong was seen in an Instagram video biking with friends through Italy.
- In 1996, Armstrong was diagnosed with advanced-stage testicular cancer at just 25 years old.
- SurvivorNet experts say, “There’s a number of common things cancer patients can experience, such as anxiety, depression, financial toxicity, social isolation.” Your support group is equally important in life after cancer as it benefits your mental health.
- After cancer treatment, maintaining good health is key, including making sure you exercise, eat well, reduce stress and limit alcohol and smoking.
Legendary cycling star Lance Armstrong may be 51 but he seems just as strong as ever during a bike ride through Italy – nearly 30 years after beating advanced testicular cancer.
While we all might not be able to bike for days on end, his continued fitness is an example of the importance of prioritizing your physical health after cancer. (Read on for tips to take care of your body after cancer!)Read More
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Armstrong racked up several cycling victories during his professional career, until an investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency charged him with possessing and trafficking banned substances in October 2012. He was later banned from competing and stripped of his achievements. He admitted to the allegations in 2013.
But back when his cycling career was taking off in 1996, he was diagnosed with advanced-stage testicular cancer. He was just 25 years old at the time.
The cancer had spread to his lymph nodes, lungs, brain, and abdomen.
Testicular cancer starts in the testicles (also called testes; a single testicle is called a testis), and these organs are part of the male reproductive system. Testicular cancer is not common. The American Cancer Society reports about one of every 250 males will develop testicular cancer.
On the 25th anniversary of his cancer diagnosis, he shared an Instagram post reflecting on his feelings and emotions during that time.
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“I heard those dreadful words that millions of us have heard – ‘you have cancer’,” he wrote in a caption.
“I didn’t know if I would live 25 minutes, 25 hours, or 25 weeks. Truly blessed to have made it this far,” he continued.
He battled the cancer with a positive and determined mindset to return to cycling. He underwent chemotherapy for roughly two months, and he was declared cancer-free in 1997.
Understanding Testicular Cancer
A testicular cancer diagnosis is rare, but it is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in young men.
Depending on the stage, the disease is considered extremely treatable. Treatment options can include chemotherapy and radiation, but often the first line of treatment is surgery to remove the testicle which contains the cancerous cells.
Symptoms of testicular cancer can be subtle. Some people may even confuse the early symptoms such as a small mass in their testicle as an injury. But when these signs are dismissed, the cancer can grow and become worse.
Men should regularly conduct self-exams of their testicles for anything unusual.
WATCH: Dealing With the Shame That May Come With Testicular Cancer.
“It takes less than a minute,” Dr. Posadas told SurvivorNet.
“Rub testicles through your fingers – looking for any sore areas. Rub the top of the testicle, particularly the delicate epididymis which is a tube at the back of the testicles which stores and carries sperm.
“Don’t squeeze real hard on there… [You should] look for a smoother feel; if you feel a hard nodule on there, you may require blood work from a urologist. [Testicular cancer] is highly curable, even when it’s advanced.”
“It’s not uncommon to see men come in with masses on their scrotum and have inflammation of the scrotal wall; they develop pain as a result. A lump is the most common symptom of testicular cancer,” Dr. Edwin Posadas, the medical director of the Urologic Oncology Program at Cedars-Sinai Cancer, previously told SurvivorNet.
More on Testicular Cancer
- ‘Flip or Flop’s Tarek El Moussa, 39, Reveals Lessons Learned From Testicular Cancer Battle: ‘You Only Get One Life. You Only Have One Body’
- 5 Important Facts About Testicular Cancer, Including How to Screen for the Disease
- April Is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month; Here’s What You Should Know About The Rare Disease
- Black Eyed Peas Rapper Taboo Says He Felt ‘Embarrassed’ After Testicular Cancer Diagnosis, Highlights Disparities in Health Care for Native Communities
Testicular Cancer symptoms can include:
- Breast growth or soreness
- Early puberty in boys
- Low back pain (a potential symptom of advanced testicular cancer)
- Shortness of breath, chest pain, or a cough (a potential symptom of advanced testicular cancer)
- Belly pain – (a potential symptom of advanced testicular cancer)
- Headaches or confusion (a potential symptom of advanced testicular cancer)
Returning to Normalcy After Cancer Treatment
Just months after being diagnosed, Armstrong was told there were no traces of his cancer. This is a big reason to celebrate, but once your cancer treatment ends, you can feel just as many emotions as you did when you were first diagnosed.
Emotions of happiness, hopefulness, worry, and fear can all emerge simultaneously.
Dr. Shelly Tworoger, a researcher at Moffitt Cancer Center, told SurvivorNet that “there’s a number of common things cancer patients can experience, such as anxiety, depression, financial toxicity, social isolation.”
Knowing you have loved ones by your side at every step and help you process those emotions and cope with your new reality during your journey.
SurvivorNet experts recommend continuing to lean on your support group whether it’s loved ones, or a support group of fellow cancer warriors because they still influence your mental health. Staying positive is key.
“You might be better able to manage your life and cancer history when you’re able to look at things in a positive light,” the American Cancer Society says.
Developing a normal routine can also help you adapt to life after recurring cancer treatments. For some people, this means returning to work.
“Your job may remind you that you have a life apart from cancer – you are a valued employee, a great boss, or a trusted co-worker…Sometimes cancer can make you feel very isolated and lonely, and being around people can be a great comfort,” the American Cancer Society adds.
Caring for Your Body
After cancer treatment, maintaining good health is important for cancer survivors, says the Mayo Clinic. Some tips for improving your quality of life while transitioning to survivorship include:
- Eat a balanced diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Reduce stress
- Stop using tobacco
- Limit alcohol consumption
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