Testicular cancer can be a life-threatening disease, but in a majority of cases, it can be successfully treated. Although it is an uncommon form of cancer and accounts for only 1.2% of all cancers in men, it is the most common form of cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 35. Symptoms are often painless, but a regular self-examination can be an effective way to check for early signs.
The testicles are an important part of the male reproductive system and are located in the scrotum, the loose skin underneath the penis. They produce sperm and the hormone testosterone, which plays a key role in male sexual health. Most testicular cancer develops in the cells that make sperm, known as germ cells.
Common Signs of Testicular Cancer
The most common symptom of testicular cancer is swelling or a lump in one of the testicles, commonly around the size of a pea, which is often painless. Other symptoms can include:
- A change in the texture or shape of the testicles
- A dull ache or sharp pain in the scrotum or testicle, which may come and go
- Pain, aching, or discomfort in the lower abdomen or groin
- An increase in firmness of a testicle
- A difference in appearance between the two testicles
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- A buildup of fluid in the scrotum
Symptoms of metastatic testicular cancer (cancer that has spread to areas outside of the testicles), can also include enlargement or tenderness of breast tissue, a lump or swelling in the neck, fatigue, lower back pain, shortness of breath, a persistent cough, or coughing up blood.
Certain factors can increase a man’s risk of developing testicular cancer, including:
- An undescended testicle
- A family history of testicular cancer
- Age – it is more common in men between the ages of 15 and 35
- Race – it is more common in Caucasian men
There is no way to prevent testicular cancer, but early detection of it can ensure more effective treatment. A simple, three-minute self-examination performed once a month is recommended. The ideal time for a self-examination is after a warm bath or shower, when the skin around the scrotum is most relaxed. To examine the testicles, gently roll each one between the thumb and fingers of both hands to feel for any lumps or nodules. Most lumps in the scrotum are not in the testicle, are not cancerous, and are often the result of a cyst or swollen blood vessels in the tubes around the testicles. However, they should never be ignored. You should always have any lumps or abnormalities checked by your doctor as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis.
Diagnosis and Treatment
To determine whether a lump is testicular cancer, your doctor will need to carry out diagnostic testing, which can include an ultrasound to create a clear image of the scrotum and testicles, and blood tests to detect certain hormones (markers) in the blood, which, if elevated, can help to determine testicular cancer. In some cases, surgery to remove a testicle (an orchiectomy) may be recommended to analyze it and determine if cancer is present. A CT scan and further blood tests may be required to assess the stage of the cancer and to check if it has spread to other body parts.
Treatment will depend on the type and extent (stage) of the cancer and your overall health and preferences but can include surgery to remove the testicle along with nearby lymph nodes if required. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may also be necessary to prevent the cancer from returning. Testicular cancer can be successfully treated in a majority of cases, even if the cancer is metastatic and has spread to a different area of the body.
High Quality Men’s Health Care in Phoenix and Gilbert, AZ
If you are looking for specialized men’s health care, contact Ironwood Urology. Experienced and board-certified urologist Dr. Desi Avila provides the highest quality, patient-focused health care to men in the Phoenix area. For more information about our services and specialties, please call our office at (480) 961-2323, or you can schedule an appointment online using our secure online appointment request form.