CEDAR FALLS - In one way, basketball may have help saved Adison Pace's life.
A sports physical for the 15-year-old at Peet Junior High School in Cedar Falls led to a disturbing diagnosis.
"The doctor noticed something and said, 'let's check it out, it's probably nothing,' " said Pace. "I'm glad he checked it out."
The diagnosis was striking.
Is this really supposed to happen to a 15-year-old? Especially a kid like Pace, a basketball player who is in shape and would willingly spend all day working on his game?
"It was shocking," said Roxanne Pace, his mother. "After he was diagnosed, we found out it was the most common type of cancer in (males) from about 13 to 35."
Once the news hit, doctors took swift action on Pace.
"He was diagnosed on a Friday," said his mother. "We were in Iowa City on a Monday (at UIHC) and, on Tuesday, he had one testicle removed."
The recovery also didn't take too long. Pace said he was back in school in about a week's time and back to playing basketball within three weeks.
Dr. Thomas Richardson, urologist with Physicians Clinic of Iowa, said this year's projections are for about 8,500 new cases of testicular cancer in the United States. In 2013, Dr. Richardson said about 300 people died from testicular cancer.
"We strongly encourage boys from young adolescents to middle adulthood should be doing a testicular self-examination once a month," said Dr. Richardson.
Dr. Richardson offered these tips for a self-examination:
- Do it in the shower when the "skin is relaxed" and they won't feel any abnormalities.
- The testicle should feel soft. In Dr. Richardson's words, "like the pad of a thumb and not the back of a hand".
Adison's father, Nicholas Pace, is a professor at the University of Northern Iowa and also was an administrator at the high school level before UNI.
"When kids get that sports physical, it needs to be an exam and include that part," said Nicholas Pace. "Coaches and athletic directors have to be talking about it. It's also a good time to look at the health curriculum."
His son's cancer was caught rather quickly but Adison said he did not notice any abnormalities before the diagnosis.
"We've talked to some other families who've had it," said Nicholas Pace. "The boys actually felt something, a little discomfort and they were hesitant to say anything. Consequently, a few months go by and then you're dealing with a more complicated situation."
This experience also shines a new focus, with the Pace family, to make more people aware of testicular cancer and try to remove any hesitation on discussing it.
"We hope that it can be talked about as breast exams are for the girls," said Roxanne Pace. "All boys, all ages need to be aware of their bodies and to find it really early."
With basketball season, officially, over, now Adison Pace is back to the next stages of life. Turning 16. Starting high school at Cedar Falls in August.
"It's really important to be aware," said Pace. "I had heard about it before but thought 'that never happens to me, it happened to other people'. When it actually happens to you, it's scary."