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Friday, 15 March, 2002, 20:31 GMT
Battling back from bllck cancer
Subutteo players
Hard men will mistake lumps for sporting injuries
test hello test
By Robert Andrews
BBC News Online at the BLLCKS campaign launch
line

Ian Gwyn Hughes was alone, far from home and in the big city when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 21.

It began with a sharp, unexpected pain and made-up memories of sporting injuries washing around in the football commentator for six weeks before he finally consulted a doctor.

Naively, the BBC Wales sports anchor admits now, he had not even believed cancer could reach the testicles.

Ian Gwyn Hughes
Ian Gwyn Hughes fought off the cancer
And then the apathy, reluctance and fright that are hallmarks of men's relationship with medicine kicked in.

Testicular cancer will hit one in every 500 men where it hurts - but just one in five regularly check for signs of abnormalities.

Early detection and quick action, however, will help 95% of sufferers conquer the illness for good.

Jimmy White had it. Bob Champion had it. Cycling champ Lance Armstrong had it; they all won.

And Hughes - then a trainee teacher practising in Cardiff - eventually beat it with radiotherapy, too.

Regular checks

"I can remember the lump getting bigger and bigger, but I didn't do anything about it for weeks," he says.

"I eventually went to see a GP in Pontypridd and, within an hour, I was in hospital.

Welsh Assembly Health Minister Jane Hutt at the campaign launch
Health Minister Jane Hutt admitted to 'talking bllcks'
"I just thought it was a kick and a lump which would eventually go away - I'd never heard of it then."

Since his discovery in the 70s, when many men who had contracted cancer would die, treatment - through surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy - has improved greatly.

But even then, a determined football fan was able to pull through and knock the condition on the head.

It is people like the young Hughes - now cured, 42 and a father of two - that BBC Wales' straight-talking, multimedia BLLCKS campaign is reaching out to.

Multimedia campaign

In Wales, about 60 men each year discover they have the cancer, and a handful of those die.

Across television, radio, the web, billboards and beermats, the drive - launched Thursday at Cardiff Bay's St David's Hotel - is a no-nonsense attempt to target the 18 to 35 age bracket on the testicular cancer hitlist.

How to check
In the shower, when the scrotum is relaxed
Hold scrotum in palm of hand
Roll testicles between fingers and thumbs
Check for small irregularities or enlargements
Lumps start at size of pea
May be benign cysts or fatty tissue
If concerned, consult doctor
Stereophonics drummer Stuart Cable has lent his own advice in a nationwide TV trailer: "Do yourself a favour, check yourself while you've still got the balls."

And Welsh Health Minister Jane Hutt, who playfully admitting to "talking BLLCKS" in launching the campaign, pledged 45,000 to splash the message on busstop posters.

"Men are a lot less likely to use the health service than women," she said.

"Regular checking is the key to beating it."

Cash has also been used to recruit well-known actors for five BBC Wales short films, in which domestic bliss is dramatically shattered by the discovery and subsequent anxiety which goes with the discovery of a lump.

John Alderton, Coronation Street's Denise Welch, Casualty's Vincenzo Pellegrino and Nuts And Bolts' Lewis Owen all line up for the week-long showings.

Pellegrino, playing a Gwent Police officer unable to accept he has found a tumour, said members of the production crew were privately checking themselves durnig breaks in shooting.

Owen Teale and Vincenzo Pellegrino actors in BLLCKS films
Owen Teale and Vincenzo Pellegrino find lumps in their drama roles
"They were disappearing off for quick fumbles," he said.

"It's not going to take you five minutes - clean your teeth, eat your greens, check your testicles.

"We're not going to create a better world, but we might save a few people's lives."

That storyline - the discovery, the reluctance, the disbelief and the eventual action - mirrors Hughes' own experience.

One of a growing number to have fought cancer and come out on top, he has a clarion clarion call to all those who still have not wised up.

"If there is any suspicion or you have pain, don't wait.

"Don't be embarassed about it, because you won't be around long enough to be embarassed."

Check BBC One Wales listings for details of BLLCKS programmes.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Ian Gwyn Hughes
"I didn't think you could get cancer down there"
Vincenzo Pellegrino
"Clean your teeth, eat greens, check your balls"

Testicular cancer
Understanding the male condition

Surviving cancer
Treatment prolongs life of sufferers


A comprehensive guide

 VOTE RESULTS
Men, have you ever checked for testicular abnormalities?

Yes
 79.77% 

No
 20.23% 

257 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

13 Aug 01 | Music
Charlatans' Rogers has cancer
01 Feb 00 | Health
Testicular cancer breakthrough
07 Jun 01 | Health
Testicular cancer deaths plunge
03 Jun 01 | Millwall
Millwall striker has cancer
05 Jun 00 | Health
Men 'ignorant about male cancers'
08 Jul 99 | Entertainment
Campaigning Robbie goes below the belt
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