It is estimated that 8,720 men in the United States will be diagnosed with testicular cancer this year and the average age of diagnosis is 33.
Testicular cancer may be an embarrassing topic for some, but it is more common than you think. The first symptom is change in size or shape of one or both testicles, followed by pain in some cases.
It is recommended by doctors for men between 15 and 40 to do a regular self-examination. This will help in early detection and is especially important for those who have a history of un-descended testicles or familial history of testicular cancer.
How to do a self-exam
Hold your penis away from the testicles and check one testicle at a time. Hold the testicle between your thumbs and fingers of both hands and roll it gently between your fingers. Look and feel for any hard lumps or smooth rounded bumps, or any change in the size, shape, or consistency of the testicles.
- Heavy feeling in the scrotum
- Breast growth or soreness: some cell tumors can make estrogen, which can cause breast growth or loss of sexual desire.
- A swelling and/or lump in one or both of the testes. You may or may not have pain in the testes or scrotum
- A dull pain or feeling of pressure in the lower belly or groin.
- Early puberty in boys: Some cell tumors can make androgens (male sex hormones). Androgen-producing tumors may not cause any specific symptoms in men, but in boys they can cause signs of puberty at an abnormally early age, such as a deepening voice and growth of facial and body hair.
Remember that it is normal for one testicle to be slightly larger than the other, and for one to hang lower than the other.
Symptoms of advanced stages of testicular cancer
This means the cancer has spread beyond the testicles, and regional lymph nodes, to other organs. The symptoms can very based on the region it spreads too.
- Headache or confusion caused from cancer spreading to the brain.
- Belly Pain – either from enlarged lymph nodes, or because the cancer has spread to the liver.
- Shortness of breath, coughing, or chest pain – even coughing up blood may develop from cancer spreading in the lungs.
- Lack of energy, sweating for no clear reason, fever, or a general feeling of illness.
- Dull pain in the lower back and belly – from cancer spreading to the lymph nodes in the back of the belly.
However, testicle injury or inflammation can cause similar symptoms like the ones we mentioned above. Inflammation of the testicle (orchitis) and inflammation of the epididymis (epididymitis) can cause swelling and pain of the testicle. Both of these also can be caused by viral or bacterial infections.
Exams and tests:
Testicular ultrasound – with this you can rule out other possible causes of an enlarged or painful testicle before the testicle is removed.
Blood tests – done to measure the levels of the tumor markers in your blood:
- Alpha Fetoprotein (AFP)
- Beta Human Chronic gonadotrophin (beta-hCG)
- Lactate Dehydrogenase (LDH)
Imaging tests – chest-X-ray, and CT scan of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis.
Luckily, testicular cancer is one of the most curable forms of cancer, especially during its early stages, but doesn’t mean it deserves any less awareness. So, do regular check-ups once a month and stay safe.