Beating the buzzer on testicular cancer: Phil Kessel’s story

In August 2006, it seemed like Phil Kessel had it all. He was the fifth overall pick in the National Hockey League (NHL) entry draft and was about to start his professional hockey career with the Boston Bruins with a multimillion dollar contract after years of hard work and dedication.

But four months later, at just 19 years old, his world turned upside down.

On December 11 of that year, he found out he had testicular cancer after talking with his doctor about a lump on one of his testicles. He had surgery to remove the cancer and was back on the ice on January 9, missing only 11 games.

In an interview with CBS News, Phil said, “What I learned is how fast life can change. I was young, starting my professional career. Couldn’t wait to start my dream of playing in the NHL…I had to grow up a lot faster and face a new challenge. I was in shock, but I knew once the diagnosis was made, I was in the best possible care.”

Because Phil’s cancer was found early, he was able to make a full recovery—and went on to win two Stanley Cup championships and represent the United States in the Olympics (twice!). Since his diagnosis, Phil been an advocate for cancer awareness and has shared his story in the hopes that it will help others.

In 2018, the Prevent Cancer Foundation® awarded him with the Excellence in Cancer Awareness Award at the Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program® Annual Action for Cancer Awareness Awards Luncheon. Watch his acceptance speech and highlights from the event on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ series “In the Room”, starting at 17:25.

We’re honored to share Phil’s story in honor of Testicular Cancer Awareness Month and thank him for his work advocating for testicular cancer screening and early detection! Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men ages 15 to 351, but when detected and treated early, it’s usually curable. This April, talk with your loved ones about the importance of testicular cancer screening, including regular self-exams and physical exams with a health care professional.


1As of 2023, testicular cancer incidence is highest among those ages 20 to 39.