Take Charge

Testicular Cancer Claims Life of Snowboarding Legend

November 25, 2019

Snowboard Go Pro Image Courtesy of Camp of Champions (Flickr) CC BY 2.0

By Steve Blanchard

The man credited with transforming snowboarding from a renegade diversion into one of the most popular winter sports died Nov. 20 following his second battle with testicular cancer. Jake Burton Carpenter, owner of Burton Snowboards, was 65.

Carpenter was first diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011 and underwent successful treatment. However, in early November, he told his employees the cancer had returned.

“You will not believe this,” he wrote, “but my cancer has come back. It’s the same tumor as the first time around. We just never got rid of it all. A bit of it hung out in my lymph nodes and got back into business.”

Philippe Spiess, M.D., a genitourinary oncologist and assistant chief of surgical services at Moffitt Cancer Center, said that while recurrence can occur, it’s rare – especially more than two years after successful treatment.

Cure rates for testicular cancer are over 90%, according to Spiess. Those successful treatments are typically linked to platinum-based chemotherapy. Most testicular cancer patients are between the ages of 20 and 40 years old.

Dr. Philippe Spiess, genitourinary oncologist and assistant chief of surgical services at Moffitt Cancer Center

“For men that age, cancer is often foreign and not considered,” Spiess said. “Men should perform self-exams and report any unusual masses or concerns to their doctor.”

Although it is often curable, there is a subset of patients whose advanced testicular cancer spreads – often to lymph nodes in the abdomen, the chest, or other remote sites, Spiess said.

Knowing the signs of testicular cancer can improve the likelihood of detecting the condition in its earliest stages, when more treatment options are generally available. This is especially important because testicular cancer is usually considered to be highly curable.

Here are the five most common signs to watch for:

  • A painless lump, swelling or enlargement of one or both testes
  • Pain or heaviness in the scrotum
  • A dull ache or pressure in the groin, abdomen or low back
  • A general feeling of malaise, including unexplained fatigue, fever, sweating, coughing, shortness of breath or mild chest pains
  • Headache and confusion

While the cure rate is very high for this form of cancer, Spiess said that monitoring patients for a recurrence is important, especially within the first two years of treatment.

“If it’s detected early, it can be cured based on their site of occurrence with additional chemotherapy, surgical resection or a combination,” Spiess said.