By Dr. Dave Hnida

DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado Rockies pitcher Chad Bettis says that he was diagnosed and treated for testicular cancer in late November of this year. Bettis reports that the cancer was found early and was successfully treated by surgically removing the affected testicle.

Bettis said that the cancer was suspected on a physical exam, and then diagnosed with imaging and blood tests. The surgery took place on Nov. 29. The tumor had not spread and Bettis didn’t discuss needing any further treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation.

Cancer of the testicle is one of the more common cancers of men, and though it can occur at any age, it is most common between the ages of 20-34. Bettis is 27 years old.

The cure rate for a localized cancer is 99%. For those that have spread locally, the cure rate is 96%, and those that have it travel to bones or lungs it’s 73%.

Those numbers are a dramatic change from just a few decades ago when the survival rate was only 5%. Improvements in chemo and radiation started in 1974 and thereafter helped improve the chances of survival.

Examples of how treatment changes have made such a dramatic difference include the death of football player Brian Piccolo at age 26 in 1970 (did you see the movie Brian’s Song?) to the survival of cyclist Lance Armstrong, who survived advanced cancer after diagnosis at age 25.

There are few clear cut risk factors for testicular cancer, and the usual way it’s first noticed is when a man feels a painless lump or swelling on/ in a testicle. At other times, there is a new change in the size, shape and consistency of the testicle (remember, testicles are normally different in size and “hang” differently — we are talking a change here.)

If a lump is felt, an ultrasound is usually the next step, followed by special blood tests and other scans to determine if it is cancer and if so, if it has spread.

Treatments range from removing the testicle to adding chemo or radiation.

Incidentally, many men with treated testicular cancer go on to father children.

Early diagnosis is a key, which is why men should be doing a monthly self-exam, just as women are advised to do a monthly breast self-exam. Just know the anatomy, as it’s normal to have a small lump like structure in both testicles in the mid to upper section on the outside aspect called the epididymis.

If you have questions, or something that doesn’t seem right, or you are just not sure, please see your doctor.

As for Bettis, the outlook is excellent, and it is expected he will report to spring training on schedule without any restrictions.

Good Luck to Chad, and congratulations on a continued career and a healthy life.

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida.


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