Canadian comedian Tom Green was just 28 years old with an iconic and controversial MTV show that was killing it, when a pain in his right testicle sent him to the doctor. He was eventually diagnosed with testicular cancer and underwent several surgeries, which he documented and joked about in an hour-long 2000 MTV program The Tom Green Cancer Special. Today, Green tours North America performing stand-up comedy and continues to advocate for testicular cancer awareness. He spoke in detail about his cancer experience.

Mediaplanet: What does it feel like to go through such a dramatic illness so young, just as your star is rising?

Tom Green: “It definitely changes your perspective on life when you’re 28 years old and confronted with a potentially deadly illness. You really start to learn not to take things for granted because life is fragile. And when you do survive cancer, it definitely gives you a lot of gratitude.”

MP: What led you to create The Tom Green Cancer Special?

TG: “While I was treating my cancer, I wasn’t really going to be able to be going out in the streets filming pranks and funny skits, so we decided the special might be a good opportunity to continue the show and also spread some awareness about testicular cancer. Even today, it’s common for someone to come up to me after one of my shows and thank me for alerting them to the possibility they had testicular cancer. A lot of young guys watched the MTV cancer special and then went to their doctors.”

MP: Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your 28-year old self?

TG: “First off, go to the doctor right away. Early detection is your key to feeling better or even to survival. Then, don’t be afraid to ask questions. When you are dealing with cancer or any serious illness, you have to be your own best advocate.”

Awareness and empowerment

Men between the ages of 15 and 35 are, to put it mildly, not always the best at taking care of themselves. Testicular cancer is the number one cancer in this group, affecting about one in 250 men, and young men don’t know enough about it. “What we need to encourage young men to do is to get familiar with feeling and talking about their balls,” says Chris Lloyd, President of Oneball, a testicular cancer charity. “The best time to check is in the shower when things are warmer and looser. Feel around and, if you find a lump or anything weird, talk to a doctor right away.”

Testicular cancer can kill you if untreated, but it is extremely survivable if caught early, with a 99 percent stage 1 survival rate and a 96 percent stage 2 survival rate. Those are encouraging numbers for those who get an early diagnosis. So guys, don’t neglect your balls.