Be On the Lookout for Risk Factors
You or your physician may be taking extra care to be on the lookout for testicular cancer if you've already got one or more risk factors for the disease. Risk factors are, generally speaking, bits of personal, medical, and family history and information that put you at an increased risk for developing a disease.
There are several risk factors for testicular cancer. If you know that you have one or more risk factors for testicular cancer, inform your primary care physician immediately. Having a risk factor (or risk factors) does not guarantee that you'll develop testicular cancer; however, your doctor will likely want to monitor you closely for any physical changes.
Detection of Testicular Cancer
Men should perform self-exams monthly at home. These exams are simple and should take no more than a few minutes. Ideally, you should do this after a warm shower or bath so that your scrotum is relaxed. Here are the steps for a testicular exam:
- Check for swelling on the scrotal skin.
- Examine each testicle with both hands.
- The index and middle fingers should be placed beneath the testicle; the thumbs should be placed on top
- Roll the testicle between the fingers to check for irregularities in surface and texture
- Locate the epididymis (which is a soft and rope-like structure on the back of the testicle)
- Locating this structure will prevent you from mistaking it for an abnormality
Physician Exams for Detecting Testicular Cancer
There are several tests that your doctor may perform to detect the presence of testicular cancer. These are typically done if a man notices symptoms or finds a lump or has pain in his testicle(s). It can also be done if the doctor finds anything unusual in the testicles. These tests may include:
- A physical examination
- Your doctor will feel around your testicles and scrotum
- They'll also feel around your abdomen
- This procedure is intended to provide the opportunity to locate abnormalities, swelling, and tenderness
- Your doctor may also check your lymph nodes
- An ultrasound of your testicles
- This will provide a picture of your internal organs
- Your physician will be able to detect any obvious lumps or tumors
- An ultrasound wand will be placed against your scrotum and abdomen to look for visual abnormalities
- A blood test to look for tumor markers
Testicular Cancer Diagnosis
A biopsy, or testing a small piece of the tumor for cancerous cells, is not typically done for testicular cancer to avoid spreading any cancerous cells that are present. The majority of doctors will be able to get a sense for whether a patient has testicular cancer through their blood tests and ultrasounds. In cases where the results are unclear, your oncologist may suggest a radical inguinal orchiectomy surgery to remove the entire testicle, including the tumor.
After the testicle is removed it will be biopsied. If cancer is found, the doctor may require more tests to see if the cancer has spread outside of the testicle. The type of testicular cancer will also be determined in the biopsy: Seminoma or non-seminoma.