A Short History of the Testicle
The case of the month is an actual patient from The Turek Clinic – Beverly Hills & Los Angeles.
“If you ever need anything, Doc, please let me know. You have no idea how much this means to me.” Gotta love it when a patient says that! Good for your soul.
He was young and had acquired anorchia. As a teenager, he had lost his left testicle to a twisting condition called torsion. Then, in his 30’s, he developed testis cancer in the remaining testicle, which was promptly removed for the cure.
How devastating is this? Let me count the ways that a young man’s life is altered: incurable infertility, low testosterone (treatable), loss of self-esteem (maybe treatable), disfigurement syndrome (maybe treatable). What can we do to help?
The Back Story
Testicular implants or testis prostheses have been around for 70 years. Glass, rocks, rubber, metal alloys and plastic have all been used to replace missing testicles in boys and men. In the 1970’s, silicone-gel based products were the rage for all kinds of implants, including breast and testicle.
But then…they starting leaking. And along with this, the concern about silicone causing cancer and autoimmune disease rose to frightful levels, peaking in the mid 1990’s. Inevitably, a frenzy of lawsuits followed and, like turtles retreating into their shells, manufacturers quickly pulled silicone based implants off the market.
The firestorm that ensued after an anorchic man became furious to learn that spayed dogs could get testicular implants while men could not was the first indicator to me of how deeply felt the need was among men. Fortunately, at this time, I had been quietly working as the Medical Director of a national clinical trial to test a newly designed testis implant for the market. This one had a silicone casing and was filled with plain old salt water. So, if it leaked, there would be no danger. The study showed that it was safe and caused no disease, and it was FDA-approved for clinical use in 2002.
It has been 12 years since then. Over this time, we have learned that silicone devices do not cause cancer or autoimmune disease and that they are back in full swing. And, I am proud to say that our little-testicle-implant-that-could has been a durable and reliable workhorse in the larger effort to help anorchic men get back to normal as much as possible. Actually, sir, I think I might have an inkling of how much this means to you!
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