Testicular cancer program's goal: Return patients to normal life
April 13, 2015 | by Abe Rosenberg
There's never a “good” time for cancer to strike. With testicular cancer, the timing can seem particularly unfair. This disease targets young adults in the prime of life; otherwise healthy people unaccustomed to any serious illness, let alone cancer. And suddenly ...
“I can only imagine what they must be thinking,” says Jonathan Yamzon, M.D., assistant clinical professor and surgeon in City of Hope’s Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology. Yamzon displays the genuine empathy that's typical in every corner of City of Hope. He's met and treated many testicular cancer patients, and he knows “how worried they must be, not only for themselves, but also for their young families, their small children.”
More than 8,400 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer each year. While rare, it is the most common cancer found in young men between the ages of 15 and 34. The good news is, if detected early, testicular cancer has an overall five-year survival rate of 96 percent. Treatment includes surgery to remove the testicle, and, if tests indicate remaining or spreading cancer cells, chemotherapy and radiation as needed. Even when the cancer has spread, the odds remain favorable.
When treating this younger population, the goal must be more than simply removing tumors. At City of Hope, the aim is to get the patient back to his normal life, preserving his fertility and longevity.
To help them reach that goal, City of Hope doctors have a unique advantage. They can draw upon a wide array of expert resources not generally available elsewhere.
The benefits of one-stop expertise
“Our focus is cancer,” Yamzon said, “and I am surrounded by so many highly-skilled cancer specialists here at City of Hope. We take a multidisciplinary approach to every case, taking advantage of the wide array of experts who work here.”
The multidisciplinary approach pays off in lifesaving ways, when innovative therapies developed in one department are adapted for another. Robotic surgery is one example. City of Hope doctors have performed more than 10,000 robotic procedures for prostate, kidney, colon, liver, bladder, gynecologic, oral, lung and other cancers. Yamzon's testicular cancer patients are beginning to benefit from this growing body of knowledge. “The envelope is being pushed every day,” he said.
Unlike some other cancers, testicular cancer cells respond remarkably well to postsurgical chemotherapy, with clear tumor markers that enable precise tracking of a patient's progress. Here again, City of Hope leads the way, with an “under one roof” approach that rapidly moves new drugs from basic research to clinical trials to production and widespread treatment. “We translate from lab to clinic like no one else,” Yamzon said. He's especially excited about the potential for antibody-based protein profiling (again adapted from successful use in other departments), which targets tumor cells with greater precision.
Another promising innovation pairs ultra-high doses of chemotherapy with stem cell therapy to restore damaged bone marrow. Further down the road, still in the research stages, scientists are learning more every day about cancer cells' DNA, and the possible future use of nanotechnology to find cancer cells and destroy them.
But sometimes, “less is more” can be the way to go.
That's the philosophy behind “active surveillance.”
Taking a page from prostate cancer
In older patients with prostate cancer, active surveillance means holding off on treatment, because the tumor grows slowly and the patient may have other health problems. Adapted for younger, testicular cancer patients, active surveillance is a prudent postsurgical strategy that spares patients from the risks of chemo and radiation, which may affect other organs and compromise fertility.
Choosing a place for treatment is a major decision, and time after time, patients at City of Hope marvel at the high level of skill, caring, efficiency and warmth they encounter here. They know they're well cared-for, body and soul.
“I'd been to so many hospitals and emergency rooms,” said Daniel Samson, a testicular cancer patient who was initially treated elsewhere but chose City of Hope when his cancer recurred. “City of Hope is different. It's a truly systematic environment. Things move so well. Everything is handled so efficiently. It really lowers your stress level, helps you relax and focus on getting better.”
Learn more about the testicular cancer program at City of Hope.
Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.
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