Downtown: Tom Green Interview

ByABC News

Dec. 25, 2000 -- — Just when he gets to the brink of shock and bad taste, Tom Green likes to take things one step further.

He has gone out to do interviews with feces on his microphone, woken his parents at 3 a.m. by placing the head of a cow on their bed, turned his parents’ living room into a petting zoo when they were away, and shared his bowel movements with the public.

But now, the man who has made a career out of shocking his mostly young, mostly male audience is finding a way to deal with one of the biggest shocks of a young man’s life: the loss of a testicle to cancer.

Public Spectacle of Removed Testicle

Green, best known as host of MTV’s The Tom Green Show, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in March.

When he first discovered that one of his testicles was swollen, Green kept the problem to himself. But he did seek medical help, and in a relatively minor surgery, doctors confirmed that the testicle was cancerous, and removed it. Only when doctors recommended that Green have his lymph nodes removed in order to learn whether the cancer cells had spread (a more serious procedure that would keep him laid up for weeks), did he decide to turn his private battle with cancer into an opportunity to make a very public show of his condition.

“I was really stressed out and scared and upset and my friends were there with me at my house,” he recalls. “We thought if we do a show, it will be something we can do and focus on and also there was a realization that it would probably help people who have this.”

One result of his decision to go public was The Tom Green Cancer Special, for which Green’s hospital agreed to give cameras full access.

With his parents, friends and then-girlfriend Drew Barrymore at his side, Green took his audience along for the ride as he prepared for his surgery.

But when it came to having a camera inside the operating room, Green’s instinct for self-preservation won out over his instinct for good television.

“I don’t want anyone sort of cutting off the other testicle by mistake or forgetting their scalpel behind my liver because they’re worried about the television,” he jokes.

But since the cancer special was about Green’s willingness to open himself up to his audience, he included surgery footage shot with the hospital’s camera.

Common Cancer for Males 15-35

His urologist, Dr. Matthew Dunn at University of Southern California’s Norris Cancer Center, says Green’s symptoms and age made diagnosing the problem as testicular cancer relatively easy.

“It’s usually someone between the age of 15 and 35,” says Dunn, making Green, 29, “the perfect candidate to have testicular cancer.”

Doctors say Green’s cancer has not spread. Early detection through self-examination is crucial to full recovery. Warning signs include a lump in either testicle; any enlargement of a testicle; a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum; a dull ache in the lower abdomen or the groin; a sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum; pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum; and enlargement or tenderness of the breasts.

Green has recovered and has gone back to work, with a small role in the Charlie’s Angels film as well as finishing up a movie he directed, starred in and co-wrote, called Freddy Gets Fingered.

He also announced his engagement to Barrymore, and said he hopes his cancer will quickly become the least interesting or entertaining thing about his life.

“The whole thing happened so quick. Keep in mind, three months ago I didn’t even know I had cancer,” he says. “Now it seems like a distant memory. It’s a dream. It’s very surreal.”