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The man's guide to testicular cancer

Testicular cancer is one of those phrases which sends dread through most men. It affects around 2,300 men in the UK each year but has a high survival rate especially if diagnosed early. Here we learn some basic facts about testicular cancer, how to check for testicular cancer, testicular cancer risk factors and treatment options.

Man preparing for a challenge

What is testicular cancer?

Testicular cancer is cancer that develops in a testicle. Although it can affect men at any age, it is more likely to occur if you are between the ages of 15 and 49.

There are various types of testicular cancer. Around 95% of testicular cancer cases start in germ cells, the cells which your body uses to produce sperm. The are two types of germ cell testicular cancer: seminomas and nonseminomas.

Although both types of cancers are fast growing they can typically be felt before they have spread beyond the testicle.

Survival odds are very favourable especially if the cancer is detected and treated early.

Key facts about testicular cancer

  • Most common cancer for men between the ages of 15 and 49.
  • 1 in 215 UK males are diagnosed with it during their lives.
  • Approximately 2,300 new cases each year in the UK. This is slightly more than 6 every day.
  • Survival rates are high with 98% of sufferers surviving the disease for at least 10 years. However, it still kills around 60 men each year.
  • Incidence rates are forecast to rise by over 10% between 2014 and 2035 reaching 10 cases per 100,000 men.

How to test for testicular cancer?

Checking your testicles on a regular basis, ideally once per month, is important to detect changes and signs of testicular cancer. A good monthly routine for self examination is as follows:

  1. Have a warm shower or bath to help relax you and your skin
  2. Once your scrotal skin is relaxed you can start your testicular exam. Roll each testicle separately through the thumbs and fingers of both hands, massaging the surface lightly.
  3. Look out for lumps, swelling or any noticeable changes in size, texture or consistency in each testicle. You may notice a lump due to the epididymis, a structure along the back of each testicle. This rope like lump which becomes tender upon pressure is normal.
  4. If you notice anything unusual or changes from your previous self examination then arrange to see a doctor right away. Most lumps are not cancer but it is always best to have an early diagnosis.

What are the symptoms of testicular cancer?

The most common sign of testicular cancer is a lump or swelling in part of one of your testicles. This may be about the size of a pea but can also be significantly larger in some cases.

You should also look out for:

  • Any changes in the shape or texture in one of your testicles
  • Any unusual differences between your testicles
  • An increase in firmness or feel in a testicle
  • The feeling or sensation of a heavy scrotum
  • Discomfort or pain in a testicle or your scrotum. This discomfort or pain may be either dull or sharp.

In around 5% of cases, the cancer may have spread to other parts of the body including the lymph nodes (glands which make up your immune system and help to fight infection) in your abdomen or lungs and less commonly your liver, brain or bones. Even if the cancer has spread, testicular cancer is usually curable. However, early detection and treatment is always preferable. Symptoms in these cases include:

  • An ongoing or persistent cough
  • Difficulty breathing or a shortness of breath
  • Coughing up blood
  • Swollen, tender or enlarged of male breasts
  • Pain in your lower back

If you observe any of these symptoms then it is always advisable to see a doctor or medical professional right away. Your doctor will ask for details about your symptoms, enquire about family history of the condition and observe your testicles. If the doctor does suspect that you may have testicular cancer then he or she will refer you to a hospital specialist who can conduct the necessary tests. Common testicular cancer diagnosis tests may include ultrasound and blood tests, although this may vary depending on your circumstances and other tests may be required depending on how far the cancer is thought to have spread.

What are the treatments for testicular cancer?

The treatment options for testicular cancer depend on the type of cancer and how far it has spread.

Typical treatment for testicular cancer that has not spread to other parts of the body is surgical removal of the affected testicle through a procedure called an orchiectomy. It may also include one course of chemotherapy to prevent the cancer from returning.

If the cancer has spread to your lymph nodes or other parts of the body then in addition to the surgical removal of the affected testicle, multiple courses of chemotherapy or radiotherapy may also be required along with surgical removal of affected lymph nodes or affected parts of the body.

Can you die from testicular cancer?

Unfortunately, like all other cancers testicular cancer can kill you. The good news is that the survival rates are very high at 98%. That said, in the UK, it still kills around 60 men each year. To reduce the probability of death, give yourself regular testicular exams and if you find anything strange, seek immediate medical advice.

What are the testicular cancer risk factors?

Current thinking believes that the following could put you at greater risk of testicular cancer:

  • Undescended testicles, a condition where one or both of your testicles haven't descended into the scrotum by the time you were one year old
  • Family history, if you or a close blood related member has previously been diagnosed with testicular cancer
  • Ethnicity, a recent study showed that caucasian men are at a greater disposition
  • Age, younger men aged between 15 and 49 are most at risk
  • Infertility
  • HIV/AIDS

Conclusion

Testicular cancer is one of the most common cancers amongst young men. A good way to detect testicular cancer is to perform regular self examinations of your testicles. You can learn how to check for testicular cancer by following some simple steps. During this you should identify any lumps, swellings or changes on either testicle. 

Testicular cancer survival rates are very high compared to other cancers, nevertheless early detection and treatment are highly desirable. Always seek professional medical advice if you think something is not right. 

 

Other Resources:

How To Check Your Nuts by Baggy Trousers UK

About Cancer: Testicular Cancer by Cancer Research UK

Men's Health: Testicular Cancer by Movember Foundation

 

This article was created for informational purposes only and does not necessarily represent the views of For Chaps Ltd. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.