OLATHE, Kan. — We now know how a local U.S. Marine died just shy of his 19th birthday last month.

An autopsy revealed Gabriel Puchalla, 18, had undetected testicular cancer and spreading tumors which caused his aorta to rupture.

Puchalla came home for Christmas complaining of back pain.

“This is a Marine. He’s used to carrying 150 pound sea bags front and back and sleeping on barrack bunks so it’s not comfortable right of course your back is going to hurt. So I just passed it off,” Dana Puchalla said.

Less than three months later he collapsed and died in his barracks at Camp LeJeune after approximately one week of also battling abdominal pain.

Doctors who performed an autopsy determined he had aggressive tumors that started with testicular cancer. It’s the most common solid tumor form of cancer in young men age 18 to 35.

It usually presents itself as a lump that may not be painful. Other warning signs of spreading include back and abdominal pain and tender nipples.

April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month.

“The vast majority of people require total removal of the testicle. I don’t really think that’s why patients don’t seek treatment. I think it’s more the embarrassment of talking about their testicles, a lack of education of knowing what’s normal, what’s not normal,” Dr. Jeff Holzbeierlein, Physician in Chief at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, said.

Right now doctors and that Marine’s mom want to remove the stigma.

“Things like breast cancer are so openly discussed, we even have pink nights in our athletics. Why not talk about this too? Why not bring awareness to something that’s curable if we catch it in time,” Puchalla said.

If caught early through self examinations before it spreads to other parts of the body, testicular cancer has a 98% survival rate according to Holzbeierlein. It’s fairly uncommon, the National Cancer Institute estimates fewer than 500 men died from the disease last year.

“If one person catches it early and it saves their life then Gabriel’s death isn’t in vain because as a Mom I never thought I’d bury my son and it’s the worst pain I’ve ever felt. Never want another person to bury their young son,” Puchalla said.