Though treatment for testicular cancer has improved greatly in recent decades, the shocking news of Daniel Flores’s death this week is a reminder of the continuing importance of early detection of what can still be a deadly disease in young men.
The 17-year-old Red Sox prospect from Venezuela, whose unusual talent and promise on the field had earned him a $3.1 million signing bonus this summer, played as recently as Oct. 24, in the Dominican Republic. A few days later, he traveled to Boston after experiencing lower back pain. Flores was then diagnosed with testicular cancer that had spread to the lungs, according to a family friend. The young player died less than two weeks later.
The Red Sox issued a statement saying Flores had died of complications from cancer treatment. Out of respect for Flores’s family, the team declined further comment.
Much is unknown about the exact circumstances of Flores’s passing. (The case has surprised doctors, given what’s known so far.) Still, his death is a grim reminder of the incidence of testicular cancer among young men: It is the most common cancer among men 15 to 34 years of age.
But it is not, for the majority of patients, a death sentence. The key is early diagnosis, and that means regular self-exams. But many men don’t know what to look for, and testicular self-checking is a cause of great embarrassment to many men. (Even humorous attempts to raise awareness can backfire, if they reinforce the notion that it’s a laughing matter.) Yet self-exams are the way to note a change in size, a lump, or swelling in the testicles, all very common symptoms of cancer. Other symptoms include a heavy feeling in the scrotum or pain in the lower belly or groin.
Talking about testicular cancer can be awkward, and probably ranks as just about the very last conversation most young men want to have. But the death of such a promising young athlete should be a reminder that the disease can still kill, and still requires vigilance.