Testicular Cancer is relatively rare but the incidence of this type of cancer is increasing and all males should be aware of it.
What is cancer?
Our body consists of cells. Normal cells grow, multiply and die in an orderly manner and are replaced by new cells. Cancer cells do not die but continue to multiply in a disorderly manner. Over time they can form a mass which may be malignant, in other words cancerous.
What is testicular cancer?
Testicular cancer develops when this process occurs in the cells of one or both of the testicles. There are different types of testicular cancer because of the different types of cells in the testicles.
What are the testicles?
The testicles are a part of the male reproductive system. They are located within the scrotum and are normally smaller than a golf ball in size. The testicles produce and store sperm and are the body’s main source of male hormones.
What increases my risk?
A RISK FACTOR increases the likelihood that you will develop a disease. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will develop a disease. Different cancers have different risk factors. Risk factors for testicular cancer include:
Age – Men between the ages of 15 and 39 are at greatest risk for this disease.
Undescended testicle – The medical term for this is CRYPTORCHIDISM. When the male fetus develops, the testicles develop in the abdomen and descend into the scrotum before birth but sometimes a testicle does not do this. Males born with this condition are at increased risk for developing testicular cancer.
The risk will remain even if the testicle relocates to the scrotum naturally or as a result of surgery. Testicular cancer can develop in either testicle.
Congenital abnormalities – Men born with abnormalities of the testicles, penis or kidneys as well as those with inguinal hernia (hernia in the groin area) may be at increased risk.
Race – This cancer is more common in white men.
Family History – Increases your risk especially if your father or brother was diagnosed with the disease.
Personal Medical History – If you have previously been diagnosed with testicular cancer your risk will be increased for a new diagnosis.
What decreases my risk?
Any factor that lowers your risk of developing a disease is known as a PROTECTIVE FACTOR. These factors do not guarantee that a disease will not develop. Different cancers have different protective factors.
The major risk factors for testicular cancer are all things that a man cannot control so it is not currently possible to prevent most cases of this disease.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Most testicular cancers are found by men. Typical signs and symptoms of testicular cancer are:
- A painless lump or swelling in a testicle
- Pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum
- Any enlargement of a testicle or change in the way it feels
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- A dull ache in the lower abdomen, back or groin
- A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
Screening tests are done on persons who have no signs or symptoms of a disease. Screening for testicular cancer is a monthly testicular self exam (TSE) and a clinical exam by a doctor during a check-up.
How do I do a TSE?
It’s best to do TSE during or immediately after a hot bath or shower. The scrotum is the most relaxed then, which makes it easier to examine the testicles.
Examine one testicle at a time. Use both hands to gently roll each testicle (with slight pressure) between your fingers. Place your thumbs over the top of your testicle, and then roll it between your fingers.
You should be able to feel the epididymis (the sperm-carrying tube) which feels soft, rope-like, and slightly tender to pressure, and is located at the top of the back part of each testicle. This is a normal lump. Remember that one testicle is usually slightly larger than the other and this is normal.
When examining each testicle feel for any lumps or bumps along the front or sides. Lumps may be as small as a piece of rice or a pea.
If you notice any swelling, lumps or changes in the size or color of a testicle, or if you have any pain or achy areas in the groin, let your doctor know right away.
The important thing is to know what is normal for you.
Diagnosis of testicular cancer
If your doctor suspects you have testicular cancer he or she will order blood tests and an ultrasound of the testes. The only way to confirm a diagnosis is the surgical removal of the testicle concerned.
Once the diagnosis is confirmed a treatment plan will be developed. Factors that will be considered include whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body via the lymph system.
Men can have a normal sex life, maintain erections and father children with one testicle. As a precaution sperm can be collected and stored for future use.