After treatment for testicular cancer – making positive choices
After treatment is over, you’ll probably be keen to get back to doing all the things you did before your cancer. But you may still be coping with the side effects of treatment, such as tiredness, and the emotional effects.
Recovering from cancer and its treatment takes time. You’ll usually find that the day to day things that occupied you before your diagnosis will gradually start to take over again. Going back to work and getting back to the interests you had before can be big steps forward.
Some people feel that although they wouldn’t have chosen to go through this experience, it’s changed them in positive ways and helped them to think about their priorities. They may decide to focus more on relationships with family and friends or on doing the things they’ve always wanted to do.
Lifestyle – positive choices, helping yourself
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Some people want to make changes to their lifestyles after cancer. You might choose to make just a few changes or completely change the way you live. Adopting a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be very difficult or expensive.
Living a healthy lifestyle can sometimes appear to be a lot of hard work and as if you will be denying yourself all of the pleasures in life. However, it is about making small, achievable changes to the way you live that will improve your health and well-being. Your healthy lifestyle will be individual to you, and what is right for you may not be right for someone else.
A healthy lifestyle can include having a well-balanced diet, getting some exercise, reducing stress and being involved in your healthcare. You will need to think about any side effects of treatment when planning changes to your diet and exercise. Don’t try to do too much too soon.
A well-balanced diet should include:
plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day)
foods high in fibre, such as beans and cereals
plenty of water or other non-alcoholic fluids.
Try to reduce your intake of:
red meat and animal fats
salted, pickled and smoked foods.
Before making major changes to your diet, it’s a good idea to discuss your plans with your specialist or a dietitian at the hospital. We have a section on healthy eating.
If you’re a smoker, you may want to stop. Stopping has many health benefits and reduces your risk of other diseases, such as heart disease and stroke.
You can get help in our section on giving up smoking.
Exercise doesn’t have to be particularly strenuous. You can start gently and build up the amount of physical activity you do. Whatever your age or physical health, there will be some kind of exercise you could try, such as walking, hiking, cycling or swimming. Activities like gardening, dancing and playing sport are also good to try.
Find practical advice on physical activity and weight management.
Being involved in your healthcare
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This means always attending your surveillance or follow-up appointments, which is very important. If you can’t attend, contact your doctor or clinic to arrange another appointment as soon as possible.
Check your remaining testicle every month. Men who’ve already had testicular cancer have an increased risk of getting a new primary cancer in the other testicle.
Understanding more about testicular cancer and its treatment can also help you to cope. It means you can discuss treatment, tests and check-ups with your doctors and nurses, and be involved in making decisions. This can make you feel more confident and give you back a feeling of control.
Let your doctor know of any new symptoms or ongoing symptoms that aren’t improving.
Long-term or late effects of treatment
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Some side effects that develop during treatment may take a long time to improve or may occasionally become permanent (long-term effects). Other effects can develop many years after treatment has finished (late effects).
You may not experience any after effects at all or they may range from being mild to more serious.
Possible long-term effects of chemotherapy can include:
Changes in sensation in your hands and feet
Some men who’ve had chemotherapy for testicular cancer find that when their hands are cold their fingers become white, with pins and needles or numbness. This is known as Raynaud’s syndrome, and is a condition of the blood vessels that supply blood to the skin.
Chemotherapy may also cause changes in the nerves of the hands and feet. This is called peripheral neuropathy, and it can be temporary or permanent. If you have this you may have altered sensation in your hands or feet.
The chemotherapy drug cisplatin can cause permanent hearing problems, particularly with high-pitched sounds.
Heart and lung problems
Some chemotherapy drugs may increase your risk of developing heart or lung problems. Stopping smoking or cutting down on smoking, taking regular exercise, eating healthily and watching your weight are important ways in which you can help yourself.
Always let your doctors know if you have any of these effects. Your doctor will monitor them and arrange any necessary tests.
Risk of developing another cancer
Research has shown that men who have radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatment for testicular cancer have a slightly increased risk of developing another cancer later in life.
This doesn’t mean that they will definitely develop another cancer, and for most men the benefits of having treatment will far outweigh this risk.
Exercise and a healthy diet can help to reduce stress and anxiety. Some people find that complementary therapies, talking about their feelings or having contact with other people who’ve been through a similar experience can also help.
Complementary therapies may help you to feel better, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve some treatment side effects.
Relaxation, counselling and psychological support are available at many cancer treatment hospitals. Some hospitals also offer visualisation, massage, reflexology, aromatherapy and hypnotherapy. Therapies are sometimes available through cancer support groups or your GP. Many complementary therapists have private practices.
Our section on complementary therapies tells you about different therapies and gives advice on choosing a therapist.
Talking to someone or sharing your experience
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Talking about your feelings can help reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and isolation. There are lots of different ways to communicate, and these can all help people feel less alone.
Self-help or support groups offer a chance to talk to other people who may be in a
similar situation and facing the same challenges as you. Joining a group can be helpful if you live alone, or don’t feel able to talk about your feelings with people around
And the one thing that I’ve got from dealing with the support group is that it’s very therapeutic, you know it puts things into perspective.
you. Not everyone finds talking in a group easy, so it might not be for you. Try going along to see what the group is like before you decide.
Visit macmillan.org.uk/supportgroups for information about cancer support groups across the UK.
Many people now get support through the internet. There are online support groups, social networking sites, forums, chat rooms and blogs for people affected by cancer. You can use these to ask questions and share your experience.
Our Macmillan online community is a social networking site where you can talk to people in our chat rooms, blog your journey, make friendships and join support groups.
It’s common to still have difficult feelings after treatment is over, but most people find these get better as they recover.
Some people only experience a few of these feelings and may be able to deal with them easily. Others may have more, and find them harder to cope with. Try to let your family and friends know how you’re feeling so that they can support you.
Talking about your feelings isn’t always easy. You can read some helpful tips about this in our section on talking about your cancer.
Often it’s easier to talk to someone who’s not directly involved with your illness. You can ask your hospital consultant or GP to refer you to a doctor or counsellor, who is a specialist in the emotional problems of people with cancer and their relatives.
Our cancer support specialists can tell you more about counselling and let you know about services in your area.