Testicular cancer has a cure rate exceeding 90 percent — presuming it's found early.

Testicular cancer has a cure rate exceeding 90 percent — presuming it's found early.

The disease's biggest threat is to young men — those between 15 and 34 — who are least likely to worry about a cancer diagnosis, health care professionals contend.

Christian Tanner, director of emergency services at Providence Medical Center in Kansas City and Saint John Hospital in Leavenworth, is well versed on the importance of breast cancer self-examination for women.

Each October, hospitals are awash in pink, and everything from T-shirts to shower hangers implore women to check themselves and catch potential problems early.

"In October, everywhere you hear breast cancer awareness, and rightfully so," Tanner said. "That is a horrible disease.

"But, awareness about the importance of testicular self-exams can be almost non-existent."

Tanner advocates for a bolstered effort to encourage young men to do self-exams for testicular cancer.

"All of the years I've gone to my doctor, I've never heard my doctor say, 'Are you checking yourself?'" he said.

"Even in his office, there are cards that show you how to do a breast self-exam, but no cards to show how to do a testicular exam."

Tanner became interested in testicular cancer partially because he was one of the few males in his nursing school class.

When it was time to do class presentations on particular diseases, Tanner's classmates jumped at the chance to work on breast cancer and cervical cancer.

It became clear that some male-anatomy diseases were going un-selected, so Tanner chose to work on testicular cancer.

Tanner practiced his presentation before friends, and included a discussion on the importance of self-exams.

A few days later, one of Tanner's fraternity brothers in his practice group came to him with a concern.

"He said, 'Hey, I think I feel something,'" Tanner said.

The friend got checked out, and was diagnosed with early-stage cancer. Treatment was successful and "he's alive and well now, and doing great," Tanner said.

"It kind of started out, 'I was the guy in the class, so I'll do this,' but it became real when I saw someone affected by it."

His commitment to prevention has stuck.

"I've got a son that's 21 now, but as he was getting close to that age range, I made sure I hit him with (the self-exam instruction)," Tanner said. "I'd say, 'I know this sounds kind of corny to talk about, but make sure you do this, and this is how you do it, and this is the best time to do it.'"

This year, the American Cancer Society estimates almost 8,000 men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer, most younger than 35.

"By doing the monthly test, these guys can learn what feels normal, just like breast exams," Tanner said. "And, if they feel something odd, they can get in and get that early diagnosis."

During Men's Health Month in November, Tanner led a push for testicular cancer awareness at Providence.

Tanner has also recently started outreach to local schools, and is planning presentations to health classes.

"If you feel like something's not right, go get it looked at," he said. "Don't just say, 'Eh, it's probably nothing.' If you feel it, whether you're 14 or 40, go in and get it checked."

Tanner hopes to expand school outreach next year.

"It is kind of a touchy subject with that age group — it is hard to get them to open up about it without giggling," he said. "But, I think that if they start seeing the literature and understanding, 'That's really real,' it will make a difference."

"Somebody's going to pick that up and read it. It might get a dad to open up and say something to his son about it, or it might get a son to open up and say something to his dad."

"We're not going to beat it if we're quiet."