Burke looks to spread word after his battle with cancer
Galway footballer Damien Burke is spearheading a new cancer awareness programme, having been diagnosed with the disease just before Christmas.
Burke is making a full recovery from testicular cancer and was back playing for Galway in March after treatment, but he said he was just fortunate that the disease was caught early.
Now the 28-year old is promoting a campaign launched by Cancer Care West aimed at getting men to be more aware of the symptoms of the disease.
The charity, whose logo is on the front of the Galway football jerseys in a unique partnership instigated last year, will today launch 'Catch It Early'.
Burke led the Galway attack in their championship opener against Roscommon last Sunday week, but playing inter-county football seemed a long way off when he was diagnosed with cancer on December 20 last year.
Last autumn he had noticed one testicle was larger than the other, was very hard and had a dead weight feeling, but he felt no pain.
Football training and his job in the family bus business took priority and he thought the swelling would eventually disappear. He began to fear the worst when it didn't.
"The swelling and uncomfortable feeling continued until one night in December, while attending an event, the pain became so excruciating I decided to make an appointment with my local GP in Tuam the following day," said Burke.
"I had wanted to have ligaments I pulled in my finger looked at anyway and decided to discuss the swelling and intense pain in my testicle too."
He suspected it might be testicular cancer as he was aware of GAA players like Mayo's Ronan McGarritty and his Corofin team-mate Aidan Donnellan having had the same disease. Burke spent three days in hospital and the testicle was successfully removed with no sign of further cancer.
Three weeks after being discharged from hospital, he returned to training with the Galway team.
Instead of choosing radiotherapy he has opted for monthly chest scans and blood tests for his first year post-surgery. In the second year he will be checked every two months and in the third year every three months. He also has a CT scan every three months and his prognosis is very good.
"I would encourage men who experience any unusual or similar symptoms to my own, even if the pain is not constant, to arrange a check-up immediately with your GP. It could save your life by catching it early," he said.
The Catch It Early campaign will feature a link on the Galway football and hurling website and will be rolled out to all clubs in the county that have a website.
The site will provide information on various types of cancers along with possible causes, treatments and symptoms to be aware of. An app is also being developed.