Testicular cancer is an abnormal growth of cells in the testicles, the male reproductive glands (gonads) where sperm are produced. It’s one of the most curable of all cancers but prompt diagnosis and treatment are essential.
Men between the ages of 15 and 35 are the most likely to get testicular cancer but it can also occur in older men. Only 1 to 2% of men fall prey to the disease (most frequently whites and least frequently blacks and Asians) and it usually hits only one testicle.
While the exact cause of testicular cancer is unknown, a man’s risk of getting the disease includes:
- Abnormal testicle development
- History of testicular cancer
- History of undescended testicle(s)
- Klinefelter syndrome
- Exposure to certain chemicals and pollutants
- HIV infection
- Family history of the disease.
- Discomfort or pain in the testicle, or a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- Dull ache or fullness in the back, lower abdomen, pelvis or groin
- Enlargement of a testicle or another change in the way it looks or feels
- Tenderness or excess development of the breast because of hormonal changes brought on by the cancer (this is a rare symptom that can also be quite normal in adolescent boys who do not have testicular cancer)
- Lump or swelling in either testicle.
Symptoms in other parts of the body, such as the lungs, abdomen, pelvis, back, or brain may also occur if the cancer has spread.
Any severe testicular pain or injury warrants a visit to your doctor or a hospital emergency department.
Perform monthly testicular self-examinations. The point of these examinations is not to find a cancer but to become familiar with how your testicles feel so that you will notice if something changes.
The best time to do the exam is after a warm bath or shower, when the muscles are most relaxed. Stand in front of a mirror that allows full view of the scrotum. Examine each testicle, one at a time. Hold the testicle between the thumbs and first two fingers of both hands, with the thumbs in front and the fingers behind. Gently roll the testicle around between these fingers, carefully feeling the testicle and the cord, trying not to miss a spot. Locate and learn how to recognise the soft tube (epididymis) at the back of each testicle that carries the sperm. You should not feel any pain while examining your testicles.