Testicular Cancer

Talking to doctors about testicular cancer

Coping with a disease such as testicular cancer can be difficult and distressing. For people who experience difficulties communicating with their health care professionals, their problems may be compounded (also see 'Delays in seeing a specialist').

Many men we talked to spoke highly of the NHS, praising their doctors and other health care professionals for the way in which information had been given. One man said that his consultant answered all his questions, put him at ease, and gave him his undivided attention during the consultation.

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Another young man said that when he discovered that the cancer had spread to other parts of his body he felt a huge sense of shock. He was only fifteen at the time. The consultant explained in detail how the treatment worked, which made him feel much better. However, on one occasion he felt communication was poor because a doctor spoke to his mother instead of directly to him.

One man said that he was given plenty of information at the clinic, and that he and his wife were very glad to receive a tape recording of the consultation. However, not all consultants seem to encourage this practice; one man took a tape recorder to the clinic, and said the consultant 'ignored' his request to record the consultation.

Sometimes communication broke down. For example, one man remembered that a young doctor (or student) examined his testicle in the outpatient clinic and then simply 'fled the room', without saying a word. Some men said that health care professionals tended to avoid the word 'cancer', and either used the word 'tumour', or avoided giving a diagnosis. Other men saw a different doctor every time they attended a clinic, and complained about the lack of continuity.

Before surgery some men we interviewed said they were not given enough warning that the surgeon planned to remove the entire testicle. One man was convinced that he had been told that he was in hospital so that the lump could be removed. He was not expecting an orchidectomy (removal of the entire testicle). This lack of communication left him and his family feeling angry and distressed. Other patients we listened to had a similar experience.

One man described a lack of communication in the ward after surgery, which made him feel very frightened. The consultant's manner, his body language and the delay that occurred before he was reassured that treatment was available, made him assume the worst possible scenario.

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Another man recalled the times the consultant discussed his case outside his room with junior doctors without involving him.

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One man suggested that men might feel less embarrassed if doctors used less technical terminology when talking to patients. Some men recalled that the nurses offered better explanations than the doctors, using lay terms instead of technical ones.

Sometimes health care professionals treating the men we spoke to made wrong assumptions about the men's wishes to remain fertile or store sperm. Communication broke down because these issues weren't properly discussed (see 'Fertility').

Last reviewed December 2017.

Last updated December 2017.


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