According to medical experts the surgery on College President James Freedman Monday will reveal one of three types of tumors.
None of Freedman’s personal doctors could be reached to comment specifically about his condition but several urologists familiar with testicular tumors described the implications of discovering a tumor and the possible methods of treatment.
Dr. David Rudnick, a resident specializing in urological surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, where Freedman will be treated, said a patient with a testicular tumor undergoes a standard procedure to remove the tumor and identify its type.
The tumor may be harmless or may be evidence of one of two different types of cancer.
A testicular tumor “is an abnormal growth within the testicle generally found by the patient as a lump,” said Dr. Ann Gormley, a urologist at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
Once the tumor is removed, Rudnick said pathologists will conduct tests to determine whether it is cancerous.
If the tumor is benign – classified as harmless – a patient can expect full recovery, Rudnick said.
But Rudnick and other doctors said most testicular tumors are malignant.
A cancerous tumor could mean a patient is suffering from testicular cancer, a disease of the reproductive cells. The other possibility is that the tumor is a lymphoma signaling cancer of the immune system, Rudnick said.
Doctors said both types of cancer are curable but stressed the need to look at each case individually.
Lymphoma, the more serious of the two, is usually treated with chemotherapy, Rudnick said.
“If a man is over 50, it is most likely a lymphoma,” Rudnick said. Freedman is 58 years old.
Testicular cancer is more common in younger men and is treated with radiotherapy, chemotherapy, surgery or a combination of these methods.
Although there are different types of testicular cancer, Rudnick said most are curable 90 percent of the time. Other doctors put the success rate for curing certain testicular cancers as high as 98 percent.
Rudnick said testicular cancer is “very sensitive to radiotherapy and chemotherapy,” which accounts for the high recovery rate.
The doctors also warned against generalizations about specific chances for recovery.
In part, a patient’s prognosis depends on whether the testicular cancer has spread to other parts of the body, specifically the abdomen and chest, Rudnick said. But he said testicular cancer “can be completely cured even with extension beyond the scrotum.”
Brian Hayes ’90 drew national attention to the effect of testicular cancer on young men when he chronicled his battle with the disease in a March 1991 story in The New York Times Magazine. Hayes died in August 1992.
There are approximately 5,000 new cases of testicular cancer each year in the United States, according to an FDA Consumer periodical.