An estimated 1 in 250 males will develop testicular cancer at some point during their lifetime. Although testicular cancer is not considered common, the incidence rate has continued to increase in recent decades, so it’s important to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of the disease.
What is Testicular Cancer?
Testicular cancer is just as it sounds–cancer that starts in the male gland known as a testicle or testis. The testicles are two small egg-shaped glands that are held in the scrotum below the penis and are part of the male reproductive system.
Though it can develop at any age, testicular cancer is most often diagnosed in men ages 15 to 44 years old. As mentioned previously, this type of cancer is considered rare. It is also very treatable and when detected early, testicular cancer may be cured.
Causes and Risk Factors
Testicular cancer occurs when abnormal cell growth and mutation occurs in the testicles. Why cells grow out of control, the hallmark of cancer, is still undetermined. Causes of testicular cancer are unknown and untraceable to any particular event or predisposition. Most testicular cancers originate in the germ cells that make immature sperm.
Factors that increase testicular cancer risk include a family history of testicular cancer and having undescended testicles or other abnormal testicle growth and development. Other risk factors include race and age. White males are 4 to 5 times more at risk than other races and males between the ages of 15 to 35 are most at risk.
One of the most effective ways to discover a lump is during a testicular self-examination. Discovering a lump or swelling in a testicle is one of the symptoms that young men should be aware of. Others include:
- A heavy, dull or achy feeling in the scrotum or lower belly
- Rarely, individuals may notice soreness or growth in their breasts.
- Signs of early puberty in boys, such as a deeper voice or facial and body hair at an early age.
In cases where cancer has spread, individuals may experience:
- Lower back or stomach pain
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Chest pain
With treatment, the risk of death from testicular cancer is small. Since this type of cancer is seldom painful, men should always see a healthcare provider for an evaluation if they notice a mass or nodule in their testicles. With testicular cancer, early detection and treatment are the keys to survival.
A urologist will start by evaluating your personal and family medical history followed by a physical examination. If warranted, the provider will request blood work to screen for certain proteins. If these proteins are discovered, they can be measured to help determine the type and extent of testicular cancer that may be present.
If testicular cancer is diagnosed, imaging will be ordered including a CT scan of the abdomen/pelvis and a chest X-ray. This imaging will help the urologist determine the spread of the disease and the best treatment plan.
Treatment options for testicular cancer include surveillance to monitor for changes or signs of growth, surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.
Schedule an Appointment
At Alliance Urology Specialists, our goal is to provide the highest level of specialized urology care. Our board-certified physicians specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of conditions, including testicular cancer.
If you detect any pain, swelling or lumps in your testicles or groin area, especially if these signs and symptoms last longer than two weeks, call (336) 274-1114 to schedule an appointment.