Cancer of the testicles, the primary make sex organs, accounts for only about 1 percent of all cancers in men. It is, though, the most common type of cancer in males aged 20 to 40, but can occur anytime after age 15. It strikes about 5,000 males a year. Often, only one testicle is affected.
The cause of testicular cancer is not known. Risk factors, though, have been given. These are:
- Uncorrected undescended testicles in infants and young children. (Parents should see that their infant boys are checked at birth for the undescended testicles.)
- A family history of testicular cancer.
- Having an identical twin with testicular cancer.
- Viral infections.
- Injury to the scrotum.
Signs and Symptoms
In the early stages, testicular cancer may have no symptoms. When there are symptoms, they include:
- Small, painless lump in a testicle.
- Enlarged testicle.
- Feeling of heaviness in the testicle or groin.
- Pain in the testicle.
- A change in the way the testicle feels.
- Enlarged male breasts and nipples.
- Blood or fluid that accumulates suddenly in the scrotum.
Testicular cancer is curable 90 to 95 percent of the time if found and treated early. The testicle is surgically removed. Other things can further treat the disease:
- Radiation therapy.
- Surgically removing nearby lymph nodes if necessary.
The American Academy of Family Physicians Subcommittee for Male Patients recommends the teaching of testicular self-examination between the ages of 13 and 18. The testicles are located behind the penis and contained within the scrotum. They should be about the same size and feel smooth, rubbery and egg-shaped. The left one sometimes hangs lower than the right.
Testicular Self-Exam (TSE)
Self-examination of the testicles is best performed when the scrotum is relaxed, after a warm bath or shower. This will also allow the testicles to drop down.
How to do TSE
- Examine each testicle gently with both hands. The index and middle fingers should be placed underneath the testicle while the thumbs are placed on the top. Roll the testicle gently between the thumbs and fingers. One testicle may be larger than the other. This is normal.
- The epididymis is a cord-like structure on the top and back of the testicle that stores and transports the sperm. Do not confuse the epididymis with an abnormal lump.
- Feel for any abnormal lumps (about the size of a pea) on the front or the side of the testicle.
- These lumps are usually painless.
If you do find a lump, you should contact your doctor right away. The lump may be due to an infection and a doctor can decide the proper treatment. If the lump is not an infection, it is likely to be cancer. Remember that testicular cancer is highly curable, especially when detected and treated early. Testicular cancer almost always occurs in only one testicle and the other testicle is all that is needed for full sexual function.
Routine testicular self-exams are important, but they cannot substitute for a doctor’s examination. Your doctor should examine your testicles when you have a physical exam. You can also ask your doctor to teach you the correct way to do a TSE.
Questions to Ask
Do you have severe testicular pain?
Can any lumps, enlargement, swelling or change in consistency be felt in the scrotum?
Is there any sense of heaviness or pain?
Is there an enlargement of the breasts and nipples or a sudden feeling of puffiness in the scrotum?