Student, 22, overcomes testicular cancer after noticing 'pea-sized lump as hard as a snooker ball'

·5-min read
Stewart Morgan was diagnosed with testicular cancer four days after his 21st birthday. He is pictured receiving the 'Know Thy Nuts' award at the 2019 Movember ceremony. (Supplied: Movember)
Stewart Morgan was diagnosed with testicular cancer four days after his 21st birthday. He is pictured receiving the 'Know Thy Nuts' award at the 2019 Movember ceremony. (Supplied: Movember)

A student who was diagnosed with testicular cancer four days after his 21st birthday has revealed he has overcome the disease.

Stewart Morgan was leaning against a bathroom sink when he felt "real discomfort" in his right testicle on 10 October, 2019.

The finance student, now 22, noticed a "pea-sized lump" that was "as hard as a snooker ball".

Feeling "instant panic", Morgan was referred to a specialist, who diagnosed a grade one seminoma tumour.

With the cancer not having spread, Morgan, from Edinburgh, had surgery to remove the tumour on 30 October.

Read more: Nearly 11,000 breast cancer cases undiagnosed in UK due to pandemic

Eighteen months on, Morgan will have regular check-ups for the next four years, with scans and tests so far showing no sign of the disease.

This testicular cancer awareness month, Morgan is speaking out to encourage other men to regularly check their genitals, stressing "early detection is life changing".

Morgan had surgery to replace the cancerous testicle with a prosthetic on 30 October, 2019. He is pictured recovering from the procedure. (Supplied: Movember)
Morgan had surgery to replace the cancerous testicle with a prosthetic on 30 October, 2019. He is pictured recovering from the procedure. (Supplied: Movember)

More than 2,000 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer every year in the UK, with the risk highest among those aged 30 to 34.

The NHS recommends men "get to know their body and see a GP if they notice any changes".

Read more: Two in five with cancer symptoms did not seek help in first coronavirus wave

"I never ever did it," Morgan told Yahoo UK. "I fell in the trap every young guy does."

After feeling the initial discomfort, Morgan examined his testicles in the shower.

"I noticed instantly it [the right testicle] was much larger than the other one," he said.

"It was as hard as a snooker ball. At the bottom I felt a lump the size of a pea. Touching that was very sensitive [and] quite painful."

Feeling "instant panic", Morgan arranged to see his GP the following day, who referred him for an ultrasound.

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With the scan being inconclusive, Morgan was referred to a urologist.

"The urologist was very straight to the point," said Morgan. 

"He said 'this is clearly a cancerous tumour by the size and nature of it'. 

"My heart just completely sunk."

A keen cyclist, Morgan thought of Lance Armstrong, who was forced to have brain surgery after his testicular cancer spread.

"Was I going to die? Was I going to have brain surgery? Was I going to lose my hair to chemo?" he questioned.

Watch: What is testicular cancer?

Morgan initially kept the health scare to himself, keen not to worry his parents, who were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary in New York at the time.

"When they came home it was really early in the morning," said Morgan. "I said 'can you come through to the kitchen? Can you sit down?' 

"I said 'I have surgery in two days because I've been diagnosed with testicular cancer'.

"Their faces went from anxious to so confused and worried and sick."

With the support of his parents, siblings and girlfriend, Morgan had the cancerous testicle replaced with a prosthetic.

Medics discovered Morgan actually had two tumours next to each other, one measuring around 1cm and the other 1.5cm.

"They [the medics] said they wouldn't be hugely concerned unless it was about 4cm," said Morgan.

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After spending one year under "surveillance", Morgan will continue to have blood samples taken every three months, and undergo an MRI scan every six months, for the next four years. 

The ordeal prompted Morgan to defer his finance studies at Heriot Watt University by one year.

"It was the best decision I made," he said. "I was a month and a half behind."

Since the surgery, Morgan has been doing "great".

At the time of his diagnosis, the student thought "it was the end of the world". 

"I'm very grateful for my health now," he said. "There's so much more to life now than you ever realise."

Keen to one day be a parent, Morgan has been told he should be able to father a child.

"You only need one testicle to produce healthy sperm," he said.

Morgan is pictured with his father at the Movember awards. The student initially kept the health scare from his parents while they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in New York. (Supplied: Movember)
Morgan is pictured with his father at the Movember awards. The student initially kept the health scare from his parents while they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in New York. (Supplied: Movember)

This testicular cancer awareness month, the charity Movember is urging men to #KnowThyNuts.

A 2019 YouGov survey of more than 2,500 men found over three in five (62%) aged 18 to 34 did not know how to perform a testicular self-examination. 

Less than a third of the men (28%) had checked their testicles in the past year.

"Look out for lumps, an increase in size, an achy feeling, a heavy feeling, if it's [a testicle] a lot harder than the other one," said Morgan. 

"Any difference you notice, do not put off seeing someone. Early detection is life changing."

Most testicles are around the same size, however, it is common for one to be slightly bigger or hang lower.

The testicles should feel smooth, with no lumps or bumps, as well as firm but not hard.

Pain or discomfort can also be a sign of testicular cancer.

"Disruptions due to COVID-19 [the disease caused by the coronavirus] could mean some men may have delayed those potentially life-saving conversations with their doctor," said Sam Gledhill, Movember's global director of testicular cancer.

“The good news is it's as simple as adding self-checks to your regular routine and the shower is a great place to start. 

"Around once a month, just carefully and gently roll one nut at a time between your thumb and fingers.

"In most cases, the outcome for men with testicular cancer is positive, however, early detection is key. 

"If you have any concerns or you notice any changes, don't panic, but do get in front of a doctor and talk to them about it."

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