Testicular Cancer: Know the Signs and Symptoms

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April 6, 2015
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Approximately one of every 263 males will develop testicular cancer during his lifetime. April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month and Arizona Oncology, a practice in The US Oncology Network, would like to remind men to speak with their healthcare providers about getting screened for the disease. In the United States, more than 8,000 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer each year (www.cancer.org). Despite being the most common form of cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 35, testicular cancer is highly treatable and usually curable.

Arizona Oncology joins the American Cancer Society in recommending that all men have a testicular exam as part of their yearly physical examination and routine cancer check-up. During a testicular exam, the physician will inspect genital organs for the presence of lumps, swelling, shrinking or other visual signs of abnormalities. A testicular examination can detect the causes of pain, inflammation, swelling, and congenital abnormalities such as an absent or undescended testicle as well as lumps or diagnosed masses that may indicate testicular cancer.

While routine testicular exams are important, men themselves detect most testicular cancer either unintentionally or through self-examination. While no studies have been done to determine the effectiveness of testicular self-examination, it is important for all men to be aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease and consult with their healthcare providers if they notice any change. Possible signs of testicular cancer include:

  • a painless lump or swelling in a testicle
  • pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum
  • any enlargement of a testicle or change in the way it feels
  • a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
  • a dull ache in the lower abdomen, back or groin
  • a sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum

For men with certain risk factors, screening should begin earlier and conducted more often. While the exact cause of testicular cancer is unknown, factors increasing risk for the disease include:

  • Undescended testicle (cryptorchidism): In about 3% of boys, one or both testicles do not move from the belly down into the scrotum before birth like they should. Most testicles will move down on their own in the child’s first year. Sometimes surgery (called orchiopexy) is needed to bring the testicle down into the scrotum. Men who have had cryptorchidism may have a higher risk for testicular cancer. About 75% of these cancers start in the undescended testicle.
  • Family history: A family history of testicular cancer may indicate an increased risk, yet few men with testicular cancer have a family history of it.
  • HIV infection: Men infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) seem to have an increased risk of testicular cancer. This may be especially true for men who have AIDS.
  • CIS (carcinoma in situ): Testicular germ cell cancers may begin as a non-invasive form of the disease called carcinoma in situ (CIS) or intratubular germ cell neoplasia. It isn’t clear how often CIS in the testicles becomes cancer. It is sometimes found when a man is tested for infertility. It may also be found when a man has a testicle removed because of cryptorchidism.
  • Cancer of the other testicle: Men who have been cured of cancer in one testicle have an increased risk of getting cancer in the other testicle.
  • Age: About half of testicular cancers occur in men between the ages of 20 and 34, yet males of any age, including infants and older men, can develop it.
  • Race and ethnicity: White American men are more likely to develop testicular cancer than other groups. The reason for this is not known.
  • Body size: Several studies indicate a higher-risk for testicular cancer in tall men, but this is inconclusive as other studies have not shown a link.

Arizona Oncology has helped many men and their families win the battle against testicular cancer by providing easy access to a full range of advanced cancer care services in an environment that allows patients to remain close to their homes and their support networks of family and friends. As a member of The US Oncology Network, Arizona Oncology can quickly bring the latest advances in therapies, research and technology to convenient locations near patients’ homes and work. As a result, patients access the best possible treatment with the least amount of disruption to their daily lives.