Surviving any form of cancer is a feat in and of itself. But some forms of cancer carry lifelong risks even if the cancer is completely eradicated. A new study shows that's especially true for one type of cancer affecting men. Here's what you need to be mindful of if you're a survivor.
Research recently presented at the 2017 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting had both good news and bad news to report. The good news is that the cure rate for testicular cancer is higher than ever, reaching 95%. But the bad news is that over a third of survivors are at risk of other health issues due to low testosterone levels. In fact, a study of nearly 500 testicular cancer survivors found that 38% had hypogonadism, or low testosterone. And those with the condition were more likely than other survivors to have a myriad of health issues.
Testicular cancer often occurs in younger men, which means that there are guys out there who beat the disease 50 years ago. However, that also means they could have been suffering from the effects of low testosterone for decades. Some men already have hypogonadism when they're diagnosed with testicular cancer, while others develop it during their treatment. Regardless of when they develop it, those with low levels have a higher risk of a number of health issues.
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A study of 491 survivors found that compared to the men who had normal testosterone levels, men with hypogonadism were more likely to be treated for high cholesterol (20% compared to 6%), high blood pressure (19% vs. 11%), erectile dysfunction (20% vs. 12%), diabetes (6% vs. 3%), and anxiety or depression (15% vs. 10%).
I've written before about the dangers of having low testosterone. This study helps confirm that this can be a serious issue for men. Signs of low testosterone include decreased libido, decreased sexual function, moodiness, depression, decreased brain function, decreased stamina, muscle and joint aches and pains, and decreased recovery after exercise. If you have these symptoms, talk to a doctor who is well versed in hormone restoration about whether a trial of testosterone is a good idea. A good referral site for finding doctors like that is www.a4m.com.
Survivors of testicular cancer should be particularly mindful of their testosterone levels and the strategies that work the best for them to keep their levels in a healthy range. You don't want to beat cancer only to have its side effects continue to affect your quality of life for years to come.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD