Cycling and Cisplatin

On Sunday, July 25, 1999, Lance Armstrong cycled along the Champs Elysees in Paris to win the Tour de France. Less than three years before, he learned that he had testicular cancer and, worse, that it had spread to his brain, lungs and abdomen.

Without cisplatin, Lance Armstrong would never have ridden in the Tour de France, much less won it. He would have died.

After Armstrong was diagnosed with cancer in October 1996, he embarked on a tougher course than any he would ever experience in cycling. He had two operations -- one to remove the testis and the other to remove the cancer metastases from the brain -- and he underwent intense combination chemotherapy based on cisplatin.

The Early Signs of Testicular Cancer

Lance Armstrong is not alone at age 27 as a young man with testicular cancer. The great ice skater Scott Hamilton discovered he had the same disease early in 1997.

Testicular cancer is a potentially deadly disease. Although it accounts for only 1% of all cancers in males, cancer of the testis accounts for 11-13% of all cancer deaths of men between the ages of 15 and 35.

Testicular cancer has two peaks according to age. The first peak occurs before the age of 45 and accounts for about 90% of cases of testicular cancer. A second much smaller peak affects men over 50.

The first sign of testicular cancer is most commonly a little ("pea-sized") lump on the testis. There may be no real pain, at most just a dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin, perhaps a sensation of dragging and heaviness. To summarize the signs and symptoms of cancer of the testicle, they include:

  • A lump in or on a testicle;
  • Any enlargement of a testicle;
  • Shrinking of a testicle;
  • A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum;
  • A dull ache in the lower abdomen or in the groin;
  • A collection of fluid in the scrotum;
  • Pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum;
  • Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts.