Zack Coggins, diagnosed at 20

I’ve always been the kind of person who was very aware of my health. I was pretty proactive about my health and not shy about sharing health changes with my doctor.

One night, I randomly remembered that my primary care physician had told me how important it was to do regular self-exams, and decided I might as well check. I felt a lump on one of my testicles. My first instinct was to search for answers online (bad idea). Then I called my dad—I was at school in Indiana and he was home in Massachusetts—and told him I had found a lump.

He told me to keep calm and get it checked out by a professional in the morning. First thing the next day, I went to campus health services and saw a nurse practitioner. She felt the lump and said it was probably nothing to worry about, but to keep an eye on it and come back if it didn’t go away in a week.

A few days later, I noticed other symptoms—the lymph nodes in my groin area were swollen and visible, and the lump in my testicle became increasingly sensitive. I found myself constantly shifting in my seat to avoid the painful lump, and could even feel it while walking around. I also noticed pain in my groin area that was different than other muscle pain I had felt from playing sports. I knew a bunch of stretches that had worked for me in the past, but the soreness persisted.

“You’re not going to heal yourself, and if it’s something really bad it’s better to know sooner rather than later so that you can get effective treatment.”

A week later, the lump, discomfort and swollen lymph nodes were still there, so I went back to the health center. A different nurse practitioner examined me and as soon as she felt the lump a look of shock passed over her face. She said I needed an ultrasound, which could either be scheduled on-campus for tomorrow, or I could go to the local emergency room that same day. I knew this was serious so I opted to go to the ER for an ultrasound.

After three hours of waiting for results, a nurse came in and said “we think it’s a malignant tumor and we need to take blood tests right now.” He also referred me to a urologist and I got an appointment for the next day.

My dad flew in to see the urologist with me. The doctor walked me through the details of the diagnosis and treatment options. Luckily, we had caught it very early and he was very optimistic about treatment. It was really helpful to talk with the doctor and get answers—it definitely helped calm my nerves. I went back to Massachusetts to have surgery and 3 weeks of preventative chemotherapy, and have been in remission ever since.

I was very lucky to have an early diagnosis. Being aware of my normal health and noticing health changes helped me catch the early warning signs of testicular cancer. Although I was very scared, I sought medical attention for the lump, swelling and soreness in my groin. Working with the nurse practitioners and taking control of my healthcare led to my diagnosis and helped me get effective treatment.

My advice to others is to get health changes checked out. You’re not going to heal yourself, and if it’s something really bad it’s better to know sooner rather than later so that you can get effective treatment.


  • lump on testicle
  • swollen lymph nodes in groin
  • pain in groin