We will continue our men’s health series with a discussion of testicular cancer. While it is a highly treatable cancer, men in the affected age group should be aware of it to recognize the signs and seek appropriate treatment.
What is testicular cancer?
The testicles are responsible for making male hormones, such as testosterone, as well as making sperm. They are made up of many different types of cells, and each type of cell can potentially develop into a different type of cancer. The type of cell in which the cancer starts determines how the cancer is treated and how serious the cancer is.
How common is testicular cancer?
When compared with other types of cancer, testicular cancer is rare, but it is the most common cancer in American men between the ages of 15 and 35. About 1 of every 250 males will develop testicular cancer at some point during their lifetime.
In most cases, it is not clear what causes testicular cancer. There is ongoing research trying to determine the cause. The rate of testicular cancer has been increasing in the US for several decades. We don’t yet know why the incidence is increasing.
What are the risk factors for developing testicular cancer?
Any man can develop testicular cancer. These factors can increase your risk of developing it:
Undescended testicle – The testicles develop in the abdominal area of the fetus. They usually descend into the scrotum before birth. Sometimes one of the testicles does not descend into the scrotum. This can be treated by surgically relocating the affected testicle into the scrotum. Men who have a testicle that did not descend into the scrotum are at higher risk of testicular cancer, regardless of whether they had the testicle relocated surgically. This increased risk includes the testicle that descended normally. However, most men who develop testicular cancer do not have a history of undescended testicles.
Abnormal development of the testicle – This can be caused by various genetic conditions.
Family history of testicular cancer in a father or brother – However, most men with testicular cancer do not have a family history of it.
Age – Usually affects men between the ages of 15 and 35 but can occur at any age.
Race – More common in white men than in black men.
What are the symptoms of testicular cancer?
A lump or enlargement in either testicle – This is usually the first symptom.
Dull aching in the abdomen or groin
A heavy feeling in the scrotum
Sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
Pain in the scrotum or testicle
Can testicular cancer be prevented?
No. There is no known way to prevent testicular cancer.
Can testicular cancer be found early?
Yes. Most testicular cancers can be found at an early stage, when they are small and haven’t spread beyond the testicle. Most doctors agree that examining a man’s testicles should be part of a routine physical exam. Men can also do monthly self-exams of the testicles after puberty, which are important to notice changes in the testicles. Most testicular cancers are found by men, or their partners.
I will include a link below that explains how to do the exam on yourself.
Testicular cancer is very treatable, especially if found early. Educate yourself and encourage the men in your life to learn more about testicular cancer. Knowledge is power.
For more information about testicular cancer, use these links.
If you have any questions about testicular cancer, please log into your account and send
us your question. We are here to help.
Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor