Signs of testicular cancer in young men
Many cancers become more common as you get older, but not testicular cancer. On average, people with testicular cancer get diagnosed around age 33. Fortunately, it can be caught and treated if the signs of testicular cancer are caught early. In fact, thanks to advances in cancer care, 95% of men with testicular cancer who have no recurrence after 5 years are considered cured.
Symptoms of testicular cancer
Sometimes, testicular cancer has no signs or symptoms. This allows it to grow and spread without you knowing it.
When it does cause issues, the signs of testicular cancer include:
- Changes in the shape or size of the testicle
- Discomfort or pain in the scrotum or a testicle
- Dull ache or feeling of heaviness in the scrotum or abdomen
- Fluid build-up in the scrotum
- Visible lump or swelling of the testicle
In rare cases, testicular cancer can cause breast growth or soreness. Young boys with testicular cancer may experience early onset puberty.
If not treated early, testicular cancer can spread beyond the testicles. When this happens, treatment becomes more complicated, because testicular cancer that spreads isn't always easy to catch. Testicular cancer that spreads to other parts of the body doesn't always cause symptoms and may affect the rest of the body without any warning signs.
When testicular cancer does cause symptoms, they depend on where the cancer has spread. If the cancer spreads to the liver, you may have stomach pain. Lower back pain may result from cancer that settles into the back of the belly. Testicular cancer that affects the lungs can cause chest pain, coughing, or shortness of breath. If it reaches the brain, testicular cancer can cause confusion or headaches.
Can you avoid testicular cancer?
While all males are at risk for testicular cancer, certain factors increase your likelihood of the disease, including:
- A family history of testicular cancer
- Being between the ages of 20 and 34
- Being white
- Having at least one testicle remain in the abdomen before birth
None of these risk factors are changeable. Additionally, rumors that testicular trauma or excessive exercise can lead to testicular cancer has not been proven.
One thing you can manage is lifestyle behavior. Some evidence indicates the risk of testicular cancer increases if you have HIV and/or AIDS. So avoid factors that increase your risk of contracting those diseases.
How to respond to signs of testicular cancer
If you experience any signs of testicular cancer, take action. The first step is to visit your primary care provider for a physical exam and discuss your health history.
If your provider suspects cancer, you'll be referred to a cancer specialist who may prescribe one or more tests to help determine if cancer is present, including:
- Blood Test — A blood sample enables experts to look for specific substances in your blood that indicate cancer.
- Testicle Removal — Unlike other cancers, in which a small sample of suspicious cells is removed with a thin needle (a biopsy), testicular cancer is different. Removing a small sample could cause the cancer to spread. To prevent this, the surgeon removes the entire testicle through a groin incision. The testicle is then tested for cancer.
- Ultrasound — Images of the inside of your testicles are captured and a radiologist reviews them for signs of cancer.
Testicular cancer care
If cancer is found but is benign treatment may be unnecessary. Instead, your provider will regularly monitor the cancer and only begin treatment if it grows.
The most common treatment for testicular cancer is surgery to remove the diseased testicle. Nerves, blood vessels, and the tube that transports sperm from the testicle are also removed along with nearby lymph nodes.
Following surgery, your provider may recommend chemotherapy or radiation therapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells. If the cancer didn't spread beyond the testicle, you may not need further treatment.
If you need cancer care, the compassionate experts at the Reid Cancer Center offer advanced therapies and support to help you heal and get back to life.