Friday, May 24, 2019
Home Health 'GP told me I had STI - but then I almost died...

'GP told me I had STI – but then I almost died on my worst night of my life'

It was only when Paul Hunter was curled up in agony on his bedroom floor and unable to move that he decided he had finally had enough.

Cardiff-based marketing manager, now 29, has been asked to give his parents a speech.

Once there, Paul had an ultrasound and a CT scan before he gave the devastating news that he had stage 3 testicular cancer.

Lance Armstrong but I did not think it could be so serious, "says Paul of his diagnosis in December 2014.

By the time I was diagnosed, the tumor was squashing my left testicle. There was a large mass which was crushing one of my kidneys and had begun to wrap itself around an artery.

The tumor in my abdomen was a teratoma – a rare type of germ cell tumor which is made up of several different types of tissue, such as hair, muscle or bone. There were also multiple tumors in my lung. "

He is that the worst of his life. "I thought I was going to die. I could not believe this was happening to me, "he recalls.

"I assumed that there was nothing that could be done. At the time, I was in a serious relationship and wanted kids, so it was devastating to be facing surgery. Fortunately, I was able to bench my sperm beforehand – although that's not a conversation you expect to have with your partner when you're 25. "

Paul was initially given medication for an STI

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men, with around 2,300 cases – more than six every day – in the UK each year.

Although survival rates are high (over 95%), up to one in 20 cases is fatal.

Incidence rates for the disease are projected to rise by 12% in the UK between 2014 and 2035, according to figures compiled by Cancer Research UK.

"Testicular cancer has increased dramatically over the past 30 years, although the rate seems to be plateauing," says Professor Clare Turnbull, a senior researcher at Institute of Cancer Research.

"The reasons for this are poorly understood, although environmental factors may be involved."

Symptoms include a lump or pain in the testicle, an increase in size or a change in the way it feels, although the symptoms can be vague or vary.

Most cases are diagnosed via the two-week referral route through a GP. However, around
10% of cases in England are diagnosed after presenting as an emergency, almost half of those in A & E, as in Paul's case.

Paul was eventually given the devastating news he had testicular cancer

Recent research by Movember has shown that 69% of people in the UK aged 18-34 are not at risk of getting cancer.

The poll of 1,093 British men conducted by YouGov, so found that 60% of men in that age did not know how to self-check. The charity is now urging to carry out regular self-checks, as early diagnosis is key to successful treatment.

Owen Sharp, CEO of Men's Health Charity the Movember Foundation, says, "It seems that many young men are diagnosed with cancer." "But in reality, it's the most common cancer among young men."

But although Paul had been vigilant, he found himself suffering from a bacterial infection for four months.

STIs such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea can cause tenderness and a build-up of fluid around the testicles which feels like a lump or swelling.

"This involved some tricky conversations with my girlfriend," admits Paul. "I just did not know the cause, but I tested it for three months over four months."

Days after his diagnosis, Paul had surgery to remove his left testicle, followed by two months of chemotherapy, then to surgery to remove the tumor in his abdomen.

He says: "I was amazed how quickly I recovered – I was back at work after about a month – but mentally, I struggled to cope.

"When you've written a letter to your family and partner because you might not be able to enjoy it, you're playing at your funeral.

Paul to come to terms with his ordeal.

"I'm feeling a certain amount of resentment over how long it took to diagnose my cancer," he says.

"My message to my age is to check yourself and if something is not right, go to the doctor."


  • Testicular cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in those with 18 to 34 in the highest risk group.
  • Men with undescended testes at birth, or those who have had a family history.
  • Those who have had the disease once are at greater risk of it.
  • It is not clearly linked to any preventable risk factors such as diet, smoking or a sedentary lifestyle.

  • Testicular cancer is more common in white than in black or Asian men.

For more information and to sign up for monthly self-check reminder email visit

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