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Photo by: Twitter: @hess_express28

When Major League Baseball returns to action, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Hess will be completing a comeback of his own. The 28-year-old right-hander was diagnosed with a cancerous germ cell tumor in October. Hess recently announced on Twitter that he was “cured” and cleared for all activity.

“There’s a spot that we’re watching but expect to clear in a few weeks,” Hess tweeted. “I can’t thank everyone enough for the prayers, support, and love through this. Time to get back to work and on a mound hopefully soon.”

Hess was sidelined in October when he went to the emergency room after experiencing chest tightness and shortness of breath.

“After some scans, bloodwork and time at the hospital, we learned I had a cancerous germ cell tumor sitting in the center of my chest pressing majorly against my heart and lungs,” Hess said in a tweet.

Hess said he underwent chemotherapy and provided a positive update less than a month after his initial diagnosis.

“I went in yesterday for my first scan since my diagnosis,” Hess tweeted. “I’m excited to say the tumor has shrunk a couple centimeters so far and seems to be moving in the right direction! Thank you so much to everyone who’s reached out and for all the support and love!”

Headshot of Dr. Jus Chadha

Dr. Jus Chadha, Moffitt Cancer Center

According to Dr. Jus Chadha, assistant member of Medical Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center at Wesley Chapel, germ cell tumors are growths of cells that typically form in reproductive organs. Hess’ germ cell tumor appearing in his chest is called an extragonadal tumor, a diagnosis that is extremely rare.

“From an annual percentage point, testicular cancers accounted for about 0.5% of all new cancer cases in 2021,” said Chadha. “Extragonadal germ cell tumors are at a much lower rate. It’s an incidence rate of about one in a million.”

Chadha says germ cell tumors are more commonly found in men than women, with men ages 15-35 typically having a higher risk of developing germ cell tumors. There is also a rare genetic risk associated with this type of cancer.

“There’s an added risk in people diagnosed with Klinefelter syndrome,” said Chadha. “It’s a genetic condition that occurs when a boy is born with an extra copy of the X chromosome.”

In a recent interview, Hess acknowledged he probably won’t pitch in games for a few months, but he has begun training for his comeback. Hess has been working with a physical therapist to strengthen his throwing shoulder and getting his body ready to pitch. Hess says his rehab is going “better than I expected” and far better than he may have predicted a few months ago.

“My heart had such little blood flow that it didn’t even show up on the PET scan properly,” Hess said. “It was pretty emotional just to know that after everything that had kind of gone on, and just to have that behind us and be able to kind of turn the page to get back to where we’re at right now, the process of revving back up and getting ready for baseball.”