Testicular Cancer 101

Submitted by SharpHealth Team on Monday 11th October 2010
In this article
  • Risk factors for testicular cancer.
  • Symptoms of testicular cancer.
  • How to do a self-exam (gulp!).

Can you guess the most common cancer among men aged 20—40? You may not like the answer — it’s testicular cancer, affecting three men in 100,000. Yup, the entire SharpHealth department can see you all cringing now, but on the brighter side, the most prevalent form is nearly 99% curable when detected in its early stages.

Sure, most SharpMen are rightfully squeamish about the topic, but lest we literally die of embarrassment, let’s get a few things straight: though incidents of testicular cancer have been rising steadily over the last 30 years, treatment and detection have developed right along with it. Let’s get down to the SharpHealth facts:

Even famous people get it.

In this age of "everything goes," even celebrities have come out to proclaim their recovery from testicular cancer. Most recently, Tom Green, famed MTV VJ and the star of the recent film Road Trip, underwent treatment in a surprisingly public fashion (with actress Drew Barrymore by his side, no less). Famed cyclist Lance Armstrong went on to win the Tour de France after his bout. And ice-skating gold medallist Scott Hamilton has also recovered from the disease. Even actor Richard Belzer fought it off and prevailed to play "John Munch" on almost any TV show imaginable, from X Files to Law and Order.

What are the causes?

The reasons for the rising incidences of testicular cancer are still under debate, but several factors are said to put you at a higher risk: a medical history, including an undescended testicle, mumps, or an inguinal hernia during childhood, as well as serious physical trauma. For more detailed explanations of these conditions, see the informational links provided below.

Early detection and self-examination are key.

Whether or not you fall into the high-risk category (or don’t even understand the risk factors listed above), the key is early detection. Doctors recommend a monthly inspection of the testicles. Come on, men, don’t be scared — you might like this:

  • Begin examining yourself by standing in front of mirror.
  • Look for any changes or swelling on the skin of the scrotum.
  • Examine each testicle with both hands. Using your index and middle fingers, roll the testicle gently between the thumb and forefinger. Before you panic, realize that it is normal for one testicle to be larger than the other.
  • Find the epididymis, a tube-like, soft structure at the back of the testicle. Don’t worry, this is not cancer, but the part of the body that collects and delivers sperm. While the dreaded cancer lumps are usually located at the sides of the testes, they can also be found at the front.

Physical symptoms to look for:

  • A lump other than what you identify as your epididymis.
  • A dull ache in the groin or abdomen.
  • A feeling of heaviness in the groin.
  • A change in the feel of the testes.
  • A collection of fluid or blood in the scrotum that comes on suddenly.

And if you find something or have symptoms?

Go to your doctor. He/she will determine what tests are called for. In fact, it is a good idea to have your physician check for it during your annual physical.

Treatment options.

Treatment usually includes removal of one testicle and/or radiation and chemotherapy (depending on the stage of the cancer at the time of discovery). Sure, removal of a testicle sounds horrifying, but the truth is that the removal of one testicle will not inhibit normal sexual function or even the ability to father a child. Oh yeah, you’ll also be alive — a definite plus.

For more information, check out the following sites:

This article last updated on Wednesday 8th February 2012
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