I had a great time in the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation tent at Vans Warped Tour 2017 in Columbia, MD last weekend with fellow survivor and TCAF Board Member, Jason Greenspan. I’ve been doing quite a bit for TCAF over the years, but booth volunteer hasn’t been one of them, so there’s always a first. It was a blast, and I very much enjoyed the mission of educating the predominantly young adult summer concert goers in-person about the disease that has changed my entire life.
TCAF is no stranger to the Vans Warped Tour. TCAF Lead Ambassador and volunteer extraordinaire, Josh Cooper, actually did the entire Vans Warped Tour from start to finish in both 2014 and 2015. Doing that requires a whole lot of things coming together simultaneously, which hasn't quite been able to happen for the past few years, but TCAF still tries to participate whenever possible on a city by city basis. From interacting with the crowds, one observation really stuck out to me was as to just how clearly cancer awareness and self exams are understood for women, but that the opposite is true for men.
Every single young adult woman that you talked to all knew about breast cancer, and that they should be doing self-exams, which is great! Women have a matter-of-fact understanding about health and self-exams as a means of early detection. Ultimately, breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer that there is, although isn’t typically a concern for women until they reach their 40’s. Nonetheless, women are still taught to regularly self-exam even as young adults. Well, guess what? The rates of testicular cancer in young adult men are practically the same as the rates of breast cancer in young adult women, thus making it just as important for young adult men to regularly perform testicular self-exams as it is for young adult women to do regular breast self-exams. This is a no brainer, so why do we still have to fight so hard for any sort of public awareness for testicular cancer?
That’s precisely why organizations like TCAF exist, and why I was more than happy to donate my Sunday to this cause. Testicular Cancer is actually the #1 form of cancer in men ages 15-44 internationally, and someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with this disease every hour. Six years ago, I happened to be one of the 24 people that was diagnosed with testicular cancer on a given day, and my life has never been the same since. There's another statistic, too. Every day in the U.S., someone dies of this disease. I pray that it’s never me, but being heavily involved in testicular cancer advocacy circles, sometimes I know who it was on a given day, and it's never not painful seeing families torn apart, especially when testicular cancer has a 99% cure rate when it’s detected EARLY.
For a little more perspective, consider that the attendance at most Vans Warped Tour venues is in the 10,000 to 15,000 range. With a lifetime risk of developing testicular cancer at around 1 in 250 (it's actually 1 in 263, but let's keep the math simple), and assuming an equal male/female split, statistically 20-30 people either already have or will be diagnosed with testicular cancer at some point in their lifetimes at each event. More sobering is that with a lifetime risk of death by testicular cancer being 1 in 5000, it's statistically likely that at least one individual at each Vans Warped Tour event will end up dying of testicular cancer at some point in their lives. As a survivor that's quite conscious of this, all you can think is who's it gonna be? Nothing can be done at present to prevent testicular cancer from occurring, but we certainly can do better as far as raising public awareness, and encouraging that same culture of conscious health awareness and self-examinations for men that women already know.
Dudes, self-exam. You’re not going to care if your testicles are yucky or gross if you miss detecting testicular cancer until it's too late, and end up being one of those statistics. No, they're not as sexy as women's breasts, but they're just as important to self-exam every month. It could save your life someday.
Director, TCAF Ambassadors