Men can be uncomfortable when talking about their health particularly when it comes to reproductive and testicular health. While it can be difficult to discuss, men should be vigilant about paying attention to the health of their testicles and communicating problems to their doctors.
What is testicular cancer?
Testicles are organs that produce sperm and several hormones, primarily testosterone. Testicular cancer develops within different types of cells that within the testicles. The majority of testicular cancers begin in germ cells, which are the cells that produce sperm.
Testicular cancer is relatively rare. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 8,430 new cases of testicular cancer will be diagnosed in 2015. Only 1 man out of 270 will develop testicular cancer at some point in his lifetime.
Testicular cancer is often successfully treated. Survival rates among men with testicular cancers detected early exceed 95 percent. A man’s lifetime risk of dying from testicular cancer is approximately 1 in 5,000.
Who is at risk for developing testicular cancer?
The majority of testicular cancers occur in men aged 20 to 39, although all males, from infants to the elderly, can develop testicular cancer. Testicular cancer is more common in white men than in men of Hispanic, African or Asian descent.
The causes of testicular cancer are not fully understood. There are a few known risk factors associated with testicular cancer. These include an undescended testicle (a testicle that hasn't moved into its proper position in the scrotum before birth), previous germ cell tumor in one testicle and a family history of testicular cancer.
What are the symptoms of testicular cancer?
Men with undiagnosed testicular cancer may notice several symptoms, although these are not always present. Testicular cancer symptoms include:
- A lump in the testicle.
- Enlargement of a testicle.
- Discomfort in the scrotum or lower abdomen.
- Pain in the lower back, if cancer has progressed beyond the earliest stages.
- Shortness of breath or coughing, if cancer has spread to the lungs.
Are there any screening exams for testicular cancer?
The American Cancer Society recommends men have testicular exams during routine check-ups to identify signs of testicular cancer. There are no screening blood tests.
Men may perform testicular self-exams to look for abnormalities. It is best to perform testicular self-exam after a warm shower or bath. The following process of self-examination should be repeated every several months.
- Examine each testicle separately.
- Place two fingers behind the testicle and the thumb in front of the testicle.
- Gently roll the testicle between thumb and fingers, inspecting for lumps or bumps.
- If an abnormality is detected, consult with a primary care physician or urologist immediately.
Testicular cancers that are detected early can generally be cured. While testicular cancer is not common, men should be aware of the signs and symptoms that could indicate testicular cancer or other testicular health conditions. If you have questions about testicular cancer and would like more information, please contact us.