Testicular cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the testicles, a part of the male reproductive system.
Monthly testicular self-examination and physical examination of the testicles by the doctor during regular check-ups are highly recommended. Incidence of testicular cancer has greatly increased over the past 20 years, and many environmental, nutritional, and genetic factors are being researched for possible answers.
Who is at risk?
A risk factor is anything that increases the chance that you might develop a disease.
Those with a higher risk of contracting this type of male cancer are:
- Men between the ages 15-35. Testicular cancer is very rare, affecting only 1 out of every 10,000 but it is still the most common cancer found in men in this age group.
- Men with undescended testes, which is a failure of one of both testicles to descend from the pelvis (risk increases up to 40 fold): This is true even after corrective surgery in childhood.
- Men with African ancestry have 50% higher risk than Caucasians: White men higher risk!!!!!
- Men with a history of hernia.
- Men with family history of testicular cancer or having a mother or sister with breast cancer is also a risk factor.
Signs and Symptoms
If you find that one of your testicles is much larger or firmer than the other, or if you find a lump , whether painful or not, don’t panic. You problem is usually not cancer, but you’ll need to see your doctor to make sure. Luckily, even if it is testicular cancer, in most cases it can be cured. There are often no long-term effects on sexual function or on future ability to father children.
- painless lump or swelling
- change in how the testicle feels
- dull ache or feeling of heaviness in lower abdomen or groin
- sudden build-up of fluid in the scrotum
- pain or discomfort in a testicle or scrotum
If your doctor suspects you have testicular cancer, he or she will order blood tests and an ultrasound of the testes, and possibly a biopsy. The only way to confirm a diagnosis is the surgical removal of the testicle concerned. The blood test is serum tumor marker test which is a blood test which looks for an elevation in the level of 3 proteins identified as tumor markers for testicular cancer.
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.
Testicular cancer can act very aggressively, but if detected at early stages the cure rate exceeds 95%. Treatments may include surgery, radiation, hormonal and chemotherapy.
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 if desired.