7 Facts About Testicular Cancer
According to the American Cancer Society, roughly 8,000 men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer in the United States this year. Testicular cancer is a rarer form of cancer, but instances have been on the rise. Luckily, if caught early, testicular cancer can be treated successfully.
Testicular cancer is a malignancy that forms in one or both testicles and is most commonly diagnosed in males between 15-35 years of age, although it can still occur in older men. While it is the most common form of cancer in younger males, it only accounts for about 1% of all male cancers.
An undescended testicle, a condition called cryptorchidism, is when one or both testicles fail to move into the scrotum before birth. Those with this condition are several times more likely to get testicular cancer. Cryptorchidism occurs in about 3% of boys; most of the time undescended testicles continue to drop into the scrotum during a child’s first year of life.
The two main types of testicular cancer are seminoma and nonseminoma. Your physician can tell what type of testicular cancer you have by looking at your blood cells under a microscope. Seminoma typically occurs in men in their late teens to early 30s. Seminoma testicular cancer grows and spreads slowly and is responsive to radiation treatment. Nonseminoma typically occurs in men aged 25 and 45 and typically grows and spreads more rapidly. Both types of testicular cancer are highly treatable and curable.
A testicular self-exam is an effective way to notice any lumps, nodules or changes to your testicles. A clinical testicular exam should be performed by your primary care physician during your annual wellness check. It is normal for there to be asymmetry in testicles; regular self-exams will help you become familiar with your own anatomy and better able to recognize changes as they occur.
According to the American Cancer Society some men with testicular cancer have no symptoms, while others may have symptoms such as:
- A lump or swelling in the testicl
- Breast growth and/or soreness
- Early puberty
- Advanced symptoms may include:
- Low back pain
- Chest pain and/or shortness of breath
- Belly pain
Surgery that removes the testicle (orchiectomy) cures most patients. In cases where tumors have spread to other areas of the body, cancer can be partially or entirely removed by surgery. After having surgery, some patients may need to undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatment to kill any remaining cancer cells. It is recommended that patients continue personal surveillance through self-examinations to look for abnormalities after receiving treatment.
There are also non-cancerous conditions that may cause similar symptoms to testicular cancer. Your primary care physician or urologist may recommend one or more of the following to confirm a diagnosis:
- Blood test
- Orchiectomy (testicle removal)
Be sure to schedule your yearly exam with a primary care physician, and perform testicular self-exams on a regular basis. If you find something abnormal, schedule an appointment right away.