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Testicular cancer can occur in one or both of a man’s testicles. Your testicles are found in the scrotum, the skin sac that hangs beneath your penis. They can vary in size and are round, smooth, and firm. They produce male hormones and sperm.
Symptoms of testicular cancer
The most common sign of testicular cancer is a hard, painless lump on your testicle. Other symptoms include:
- pain or a dull ache in your scrotum
- enlarged testicle
- swelling of your scrotum
- heavy feeling in your scrotum
- pain in your lower back or stomach
- tender or enlarged breasts.
What causes testicular cancer?
Cancer is caused by the abnormal growth of cells. Testicular cancer develops from germ cells that make sperm.
How is testicular cancer diagnosed?
You can find cancer early by doing a testicular self-examination. Contact your doctor if you notice something unusual.
Your doctor will perform a physical exam. They will feel your scrotum and testicles for any lumps. They may do a transillumination test. This is done by shining a light up to your scrotum. If the light does not pass through a lump, it could be cancerous. Keep in mind, it is possible to have a lump, or tumor, on your testicle that is not cancer.
To confirm cancer, your doctor will need to do other tests. These may include a blood test, ultrasound, X-ray, or computed tomography (CT) scan. If you have cancer, your doctor will check to see what type and stage it is.
Seminoma is a slow-growing type of cancer. Nonseminoma cancer grows more quickly. You may have cancer that contains both cell types. Stage I cancer has not spread. Stage II has spread to your lymph nodes. Stage III has spread to body organs, such as your lungs, stomach, or spine.
Can testicular cancer be prevented or avoided?
You cannot prevent or avoid testicular cancer. This type of cancer is rare, but is found more in men who are 15 to 34 years old. Other risk factors include:
- A family history of testicular cancer.
- Being of Caucasian (white) descent.
- Having an undescended testicle. This occurs when a testicle does not come down into your scrotum. The risk applies even if you have surgery to remove or drop the testicle.
- Having small or misshaped testicles.
- Having an HIV infection.
- Having Klinefelter syndrome. This is a rare disorder in which a man is born with an extra X chromosome.
Testicular cancer treatment
Treatment depends on the type and stage of cancer you have. Your general health is a factor, as well. Most men who have testicular cancer will require surgery. This removes the cancerous testicle.
Your doctor may recommend other treatments. This is more common if your cancer is severe, has spread, or reoccurs. Radiation therapy kills cancer cells using X-rays or radio waves. Chemotherapy kills cancer cells using powerful medicines.
Living with testicular cancer
Testicular cancer is treatable and curable. Early detection improves your outcome. You may still have children if you only have one testicle removed. The removal of both testicles means you will be infertile. You may have an option to store your sperm before treatment.
Talk to your doctor about check ups and management after treatment. They may suggest you join a support group or get counseling.
Questions to ask your doctor
- How do I perform a testicular self-examination?
- What are the side effects and risks of surgery?
- Will surgery affect my ability to have sex?
- Will surgery affect my ability to have children?
- If I have cancer in one testicle, what are my changes of getting it in the other one?
- Is my son more likely to get testicular cancer if I have it?