Testicular cancer is a disease in which cancer cells form in the tissues of one or both testicles. It is the most common cancer in men aged 15 to 34 years, and it can usually be cured.
Did you know that a simple, monthly self-exam may help you find signs of trouble before cancer becomes too severe? When early detection occurs, testicular cancer is easier to cure.
Most men can still be fertile and have children after testicular cancer treatment, and the procedure does not affect a man’s ability to have sex.
Signs and Symptoms of Testicular Cancer
- A lump or enlargement in either testicle.
- A heavy feeling in the scrotum.
- Pain or discomfort in the testicle or scrotum.
- An aching sensation in the groin or abdomen.
- A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum.
What is screening?
The term “screening” in health care means looking for cancer before you have any symptoms. Screenings may help find cancer at an early stage and increase the chances of successful treatment. According to the National Cancer Institute, by the time symptoms appear, cancer may have already started spreading.
Your doctor may suggest you have a screening test, even if there’s no indication you may have cancer. Screening tests are typically given when there are no cancer symptoms.
If you have a screening and the results are abnormal, your doctor will likely refer you for more tests, called diagnostic tests.
How to do a Testicular Self-exam
The best time to examine your testicles is during or after a shower or bath. That is when the skin of your scrotum is relaxed. To do the self-exam, hold your penis out of the way and examine each testicle separately. Hold your testicle between your thumbs and fingers with both hands and roll it gently between your fingers. Look and feel for any hard lumps or nodules. It would help if you also looked for any change in the size or shape of your testicles.
During your self-exam, you should also check the epididymis, which is the raised rim that runs along the top and back of each testicle. It may hurt slightly when you press on it, but you need to feel each epididymis for changes from month-to-month.
The vas deferens also needs to be checked during your exam. It is the tube that runs from the top of each testicle.
If you have any pain or ache in your testicles, groin or scrotum, or any other questions or concerns, be sure to contact your healthcare provider.
You should spend about 3 to 5 minutes doing the exam.
What are the Risk Factors for Testicular Cancer?
One of the main risk factors for a testicular cancer diagnosis is having cryptorchidism or an undescended testicle. Having this risk factor does not mean you will absolutely get cancer, and not having this risk doesn’t mean you will not get cancer.
Other risk factors include:
- Having a testicle that is not of normal size, such as a small testicle that does not function as it should
- Identifying as Caucasian
- Having a personal or family history of testicular cancer
- Having Klinefelter syndrome, a genetic condition in which a male is born with an extra copy of the X chromosome
What Not to Worry About
If you begin to do regular testicular exams, you will know what feels normal on your body and what feels different. If you discern any changes in your testicles or scrotum, report them to your physician as soon as possible.
So that you know, it’s common for one testicle to be lower or larger than the other. If you notice a change in the size of one testicle, you should contact your physician.
You shouldn’t worry if you see or feel ropy veins on the outside of your testicle. This is called a “varicocele.” It is similar in look to a varicose vein on a leg. You should seek treatment if it causes pain or you have trouble with fertility, as varicoceles are a common cause of low sperm production.
During an exam, you may also see or feel small bumps on your scrotum, which could be a rash or ingrown hairs. If these bother you or are uncomfortable, speak with your primary care physician.
Some resources for more information include:
- The Testicular Cancer Resource Center, http://thetcrc.org
- The American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org