Testicular Cancer: The Disease that Borussia Dortmund's Sebastien Haller Has

The recent addition of Borussia Dortmund will not be able to play for about 9 months. Sebastien Haller has testicular cancer and here we tell you all about this disease.
Testicular Cancer: The Disease that Borussia Dortmund's Sebastien Haller Has
Leonardo Biolatto

Written and verified by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 14 August, 2022

The news of Sebastien Haller’s testicular cancer diagnosis took his new club and the entire soccer world by surprise. The 28-year-old striker was Borussia Dortmund’s recent acquisition, with the intention of replacing Erling Haaland‘s goal-scoring ability.

But for the time being, the Frenchman from the Ivory Coast will be sidelined for at least nine months. That is the estimated duration of his chemotherapy and subsequent recovery.

Sebastien Haller’s testicular cancer brings up a taboo subject for men, whether they’re footballers or not. That’s why we’d like to take advantage of this news to tell you what this disease is and how it can be detected early.

What is testicular cancer?

This malignant disease can develop in anyone who has testicles. In general terms, these male organs have two types of cells inside them: one that produces spermatozoa and others that produce hormones.

According to the latter, we can actually find three different types of testicular cancer:

  • Stromal: This is a tumor that grows from the hormone-producing cells.
  • Seminomas: This is a slow-growing form that originates from the cells that produce spermatozoa.
  • Non-seminomas: This is the most common form of this cancer and also comes from the cells that form sperm.

The particularity of this disease is that it has a clear tendency to affect young men. Most cases are detected in men who are no older than 35 years old. However, its possibility is not ruled out beyond the age of 40, although it’s true that its frequency is considerably reduced.

A doctor making a diagnosis for testicular cancer
Young men are the most affected by this disease. There’s a greater risk up to 35 years of age.

What are its symptoms?

There are not always evident symptoms of this type of cancer. There are even people who are diagnosed incidentally when they’re checked for other reasons.

In any case, certain signs are suspicious and, if they exist, warrant immediate consultation, such as the following:

  • The presence of a lump in one of the testicles.
  • Pain in the testicular area, either while at rest or while walking or running. This was the discomfort that alerted Sebastien Haller to testicular cancer.
  • Swelling in the scrotum, with enlargement of one side of the pouch containing the testicles.

When the tumor is stromal, there are likely to be hormonal symptoms first. That is, rather than localized signs in the testicles, the man may notice that there are changes in other parts of the body that aren’t consistent with his age. For example, there may be breast growth (gynecomastia) or voice changes (without being in puberty).

The progression of this cancer is possible. It can spread and migrate with metastases, some closer (to the lymph nodes in the groin) and some farther away. Symptoms become diffuse in these cases, and there may be lower abdominal pain, low back pain, shortness of breath, and even headaches.

Can testicular cancer be prevented?

As with many oncological diseases, we still don’t know the cause of testicular cancer, and we assume that it’s multifactorial. This means that several circumstances converge for it to appear.

Some risk factors have been identified. Not all of them are modifiable, although those that are solvable can be addressed to reduce future risk.

Among these modifiable factors, we have the following:

  • Cryptorchidism: These are testicles that haven’t descended from the abdomen in the fetal stage. Therefore, their superior location predisposes them to cancer since they are at a different temperature. Performing surgery to lower them is considered a protective action.
  • HIV: People with human immunodeficiency virus infection are more susceptible to cancer. Treatment with antiretrovirals can reduce the risk.

On the other hand, the non-modifiable factors are the following:

  • Being of white ethnicity
  • Having had testicular cancer in the past
  • Having a family history of cancers in close relatives

It’s very difficult to prevent testicular cancer. There are no specific actions that serve to keep the entire male community away from the risk.

How to perform a testicular self-examination

What is possible is to perform a testicular self-examination to accelerate the diagnosis in case we have this disease. It is ideal for detecting it incipiently in order to apply the corresponding treatment.

The good news is that 95% of patients survive 5 years after diagnosis.

Self-examination is not difficult, and the American Cancer Society recommends that men do one per month after taking a shower. This time promotes relaxation of the scrotum and makes the testicles more accessible for palpation.

The steps are as follows:

  1. Separate the penis from the testicles so that it doesn’t interfere with access to the scrotum. You should examine one testicle at a time.
  2. Hold one of the testicles between your thumb and the rest of your fingers.
  3. Make the testicle slide along the fingers as if you were rolling it between them.
  4. Look for the presence of lumps or nodules, changes in shape, or changes in consistency compared to previous self-examinations.
  5. Then, repeat the process with the other testicle.
Self examination for testicular cancer
Self-examination in the shower is best because the scrotum is more relaxed and distended.

Sebastien Haller’s testicular cancer is not the only one in soccer

The taboo about this male disease is a major problem for early detection. Many men are reluctant to have their genitals examined and refuse to see a doctor because of this.

Sebastien Haller was able to detect his testicular cancer because he went for an early consultation when he felt discomfort. The same happened to Marco Richter of Hertha Berlin, who noticed pain in the testicular area and, after the consultation, received the same diagnosis.

Richter has already undergone surgery and is now undergoing chemotherapy at the age of 24. He doesn’t know when he will play again, although he’s focused on his recovery, which is more important than his return to the field.

I decided that I had to undergo tests because I felt some pain in that area of my body. -Marco Richter

Continuing with the Bundesliga, about three months ago, Timo Baumgartl of Union Berlin was also diagnosed with testicular cancer. This completes the curious statistic of three cases of the same disease in such a short time, among clubs from the same country.

What awaits Haller?

Sebastien Haller has already undergone surgery for his testicular cancer. Now he will have to start chemotherapy, as established by the protocol and guidelines of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

It’s estimated that he won’t be able to return to official competitions until the end of the year. Although a good recovery is expected, the truth is that he must first heal his scars and then overcome the side effects of chemotherapy.

At that point, he will resume training until he reaches his ideal physical shape. The process will demand an energetic expenditure of body resources to cope with the treatment. In any case, by 2023, he will surely be reinstated.

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