5 things to know about testicular cancer

April 05, 2017 | by William Broderick, M.D.

What do you do when you feel a lump down there? Cancer down there is not something most people feel comfortable talking about, but it is a topic that needs to be discussed.

Many men who are diagnosed with testicular cancer have no known risk factors, and many of the known risk factors can’t be changed. Because of this, it makes it difficult to prevent this type of cancer.

While young men between the ages of 15 and 35 have the highest risk of developing testicular cancer, it is important for everyone to learn about testicular cancer.

Here is what you need to know:

1. What is testicular cancer?

Testicular cancer is a disease that starts in the testicles. The testicles are made up of several types of cells, each of which can develop into one or more types of cancer. More than 90 percent of testicular cancers develop in germ cells, or the cells that make sperm. Germ cells can develop into two types of tumors – seminomas and non-seminomas. Most testicular cancers contain both types of tumors (called mixed germ cell tumors).

2. What are the signs and symptoms of testicular cancer?

As with most types of cancers, sometimes signs of cancer exist and sometimes they do not. Often, the first signs of testicular cancer are an enlarged testicle or a small lump or area of hardness, pain or tenderness.

Some symptoms of testicular cancer may include:

  • Painless lump or swelling on either testicle. If found early, a testicular tumor may be about the size of a pea or marble and can grow larger.
  • Pain or discomfort, with or without swelling in a testicle of the scrotum<=
  • Change in the way a testicle feels or a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
  • Dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin
  • Sudden buildup of fluid in the scrotum
  • Breast tenderness or growth. Although rare, some testicular tumors can cause breast tenderness or growth of breast tissue.
  • Lower back pain, shortness of breath, chest pain

Contact your doctor immediately if you have any of the signs and symptoms listed above.

3. What risk factors do scientists know of?

Scientists have found few risk factors that make someone more likely to develop testicular cancer, and most men with testicular cancer do not have any of the known risk factors. Risk factors can include:

  • An undescended testicle that hasn’t moved from the stomach into the scrotum before birth.
  • Having a close blood relative (father or brother) with testicular cancer
  • Men infected with HIV
  • Carcinoma in situ of the testicle, which began as a non-invasive form of testicular cancer
  • Prior history of testicular cancer
  • Certain races/ethnicities
  • Body size

4. Am I at a greater risk for testicular cancer if I have experienced trauma from an accident or sporting incident?

According to the American Cancer Society, prior injury or trauma like excessive bike riding, horseback riding or a car accident does not appear to be related to the development of testicular cancer.

5. How can I prevent testicular cancer?

Know your body. If you notice something feels weird or looks different, contact your physician. You should also schedule a regular physical every year and ask your doctor to examine your testicles as part of your routine physical exam. Detecting cancer early is most often always better.

Learn more about cancer services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

How do you keep healthy? Tell us in the below comments.

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