Testosterone therapy after testicular cancer

Testosterone therapy

Testosterone therapy is a consideration for many men and their doctor’s after the removal of testicles due to cancer, torsion, injury or in an extreme STI situation.  Testosterone is the primary sex hormone found in men and is also an anabolic steroid. It is paramount in the development of testis, the prostate and sperm production.  As secondary sexual characteristics, testosterone helps promote growth of body hair as well as denser muscle and bone mass.  Sex-drive and mental health also go hand in hand with healthy testosterone production, but like Dr. Dean Elterman says in our Balls documentary, “There is a range of normal for everything, and too much of a good thing, is a bad thing”. More is not necessarily better.

Dr. Dean Elterman discusses testosterone
Dr. Dean Elterman explains testosterone’s function in the male body.

Body builders might use anabolic steroids to help increase their muscle mass, and it works. That said, prolonged and overuse of anabolic steroids can lead to a complete shut down of natural testosterone production in the body with the end result being testicular atrophy, thus forcing these men to rely on testosterone hormone therapy for the rest of their lives. The damage is irreversible.

Bodybuilding with steroid use.
Many bodybuilders use steroids in pursuit of their physical ideal.

Interestingly enough, testosterone is also produced in female ovaries, but to a lesser extent.  The average adult male will produce about 8 times more testosterone compared to the average female.

A bodybuilder administering a self-dosage of steroids.
A bodybuilder administering a self-dosage of steroids.

Some might even venture to say that testosterone therapy is the fountain of youth for aging men. After the age of 35, men lose about 1 percent of testosterone production every year.  This is a natural part of a male’s physiology.  As a result of declining testosterone, men might experience: reduced sexual desire, sleep disturbances (like insomnia), physical changes (like increased body fat, reduced muscle density and strength, hair loss, gynecomastia, lethargy and changes in mental health (like depression, low self-confidence, trouble concentrating and memory loss).  Though testosterone therapy can help reverse the effects of hypogonadism (an actual hormonal disease that effects testosterone production in the testicles or the pituitary gland), there is little evidence that testosterone therapy for older men, who are otherwise healthy, is of any benefit.  Quite frankly, until we can actually reverse the effects of aging, the degradation of the body and mind is a natural function of being alive.  Instead of chasing the fountain of youth, as a culture we need to accept and prepare for the process of death.  It will happen to all us.  This is a healthier and much needed approach.

Shawn discusses testosterone therapy with Dr. Dean Elterman.
Shawn discusses testosterone therapy with Dr. Dean Elterman.

Shawn, who has suffered through hypogonadism, cancer and erectile dysfunction, needed testosterone therapy on his path to healing and recovery.
 
Shawn is very courageous to share his long and involved testicular journey with us.  Like Peter, not only has Shawn had BOTH his testicles removed (replaced by 2 prosthetic testicles) because of cancer, but he has also had a penile implant.  Because Shawn is now unable to produce any testosterone, he is using testosterone gel.  Though testosterone shots are covered by OHIP (Ontario Health Plan in Canada), he found them painful and inconvenient.

Instead, he opted for the gel (at a cost of $150/month), which is easier to manage and as simple to apply as body cream.  Shawn jokingly calls himself the bionic man.  His openness and honestly to reveal his process is beautiful, especially that his story ends on such a positive note.
 
I don’t want to reveal too much about Shawn’s fascinating story.  Instead, sit back and watch the documentary episode about him.  It’s quite inspiring.

WATCH the unblurred, unbleeped, balls out version here:

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Border2Border Entertainment: http://bit.ly/2xoSpjW

~ Nico Stagias, Balls documentary director

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Varicocele – a unique kind of testicle

Adam Graham varicocele

Like varicose veins in the legs, varicocele is an abnormal enlargement of the veins in the scrotum.

Let’s be honest, we are body obsessed, even when it comes to our balls.  Balls “should” be oval shaped and smooth.  When they don’t conform to the norm, we worry, we question why, we keep quiet and hope no one notices.  “Let’s have a beer and forget about it”.
 
Like varicose veins in the legs, varicocele is an abnormal enlargement of the veins in the scrotum. Often painful, varicocele might even cause infertility, as we discovered in our documentary, Balls, as in the case of our courageous documentary subject Adam.  

Adam Graham varicocele

After taking part in a medical study during his undergraduate degree, Adam donated some of his semen and found out that, in his own words, his “sperm was dead”.  Adam jokingly compares his left testicle to an “asteroid”, because it looks enlarged and misshapen.  Aside from infertility, other symptoms of testicular varicocele might include: an aching or dragging like pain, heaviness in the testicle, shrinking of the testicle and benign prostatic hyperplasia (noncancerous increase in size of the prostate).

Get to know your balls. Go step-by-step watching this NSFW testicular self-exam video with Johnny Rapid.


Adam considered surgery to remove the varicose veins in his scrotum, but decided against it because he is a gay man that is not interested in having children.  Though at times his varicocele is physically sensitive to touch or sexual play, he has lived with this condition for most of his adult life and doesn’t see the benefit of going under the knife.  He is also in a supportive relationship with his partner Philip who has no issue with Adam’s “misshapen” ball.  Philip loves Adam exactly as he is.  Adam is lucky.

As men, particularly gay men, we are obsessed with our physical presence.  In another episode of Balls we explore the use of anabolic steroids and how men physically transform their bodies through its use with often disastrous side effects.

Jeremy from I'm a Stripper.
Jeremy from I’m a Stripper.

We aspire to a physical ideal that is unattainable. We are constantly and unsuccessfully trying to transform and mutilate our bodies to fit a singular, perfect mold that only exists in some sadistic Greek god’s fantasy.   For more on this explore our documentary STUDlebrity.

I am no exception.  Though to date I have not been on a course of steroids nor have I had any testicular ailments that I am aware of, I did recently remove 12 moles from my torso.  Granted, some of these moles needed to be removed for health reasons, but the majority of them were removed strictly based on aesthetics.  

Nico Stagias - Director of PhotographyI have too many moles and they look ugly. I’ve struggled with my ugly moles all my life and finally decided to do something about it.  I figured, since I was removing 4 moles, why not remove another 8 unsightly, lumpy marks off my body.  While on the operating table and feeling the pull of my skin being sliced off, I started to panic and have regrets.

This didn’t feel good, emotionally and physically. Why am I putting myself though additional trauma for the sake of vanity? I’ve never had any part of my body removed, including my foreskin, of which I am very proud of (I have a lot of foreskin pride and always encourage parents not to mutilate their young baby boys). Now recovering from my minor surgery, in loo of my large moles, I have large unsightly scars in their stead.  Sadly, I’m no closer to this perfect/ flawless body.  In fact, I’m left humbled, a little embarrassed and further flawed.  I’m embarrassed to tell friends and family why I had this procedure done.  I think I’m sticking to the story of having been in a knife fight.  It will make me appear strong and courageous. 😉   So manly!
 
I guess I should have listened to my Greek mother.  She refers to my ugly moles as “beautiful olives”.  Either a mother’s love is blind, or she can see our true physical beauty, no matter how ugly we think we might be.  Vulnerability is beautiful.  Being different is beautiful.  Being flawed is beautiful.  Thanks Mom.  I’ll be sure to have a chat with you next time I’m considering the operation table for elective surgery. 

~ Nico Stagias, Balls director & cinematographer at Border2Border Entertainment.

Dive deeper into the Balls documentary with director Nico Stagias in this interview.

WATCH the unblurred, unbleeped, balls out version of the Balls documentary on Border2Border Entertainment.

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