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What Men Should Know About Testicular Cancer

Posted on April 1, 2023

Despite the many advances, cancer remains a leading healthcare concern, including testicular cancer. Fortunately, testicular cancer is highly treatable, even if it spreads. It’s vital to monitor your testicles regularly for any tell-tale signs and alert your doctor of any changes.

How Is Testicular Cancer Characterized?

As there are multiple kinds of testicular cancer, an oncologist must examine the cells under a microscope to determine the type. They include:

  • Germ cell tumors (GCTs) – GCTs are cancerous growths that form on the germ cells, which produce sperm. This type of growth is the starting point for more than 90% of testicular cancers.

  • Carcinoma in situ (CIS) – GCTs may begin non-invasively, as a form called carcinoma in situ (CIS, or intratubular germ cell neoplasia). With CIS, the cells haven’t spread and don’t necessarily become invasive. CIS often has no symptoms and forms no lump, making it hard to diagnose without a biopsy.

  • Stromal tumors – Tumors often start in the testicles’ stroma, which is a hormone-producing tissue.

  • Secondary testicular cancers – In some cases, testicular cancer is a result of cancer from another organ that has spread to the testicles. Examples include lymphoma and leukemia.

Generally targeting young and middle-aged men, testicular cancer is not common, although global rates have been increasing for several decades. In 2023, about 1 in 250 US males (about 9,190 new cases) should develop it. The good news is that it’s usually treated successfully, with the risk of death being only about 1 in 5,000.

Testicular Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Typically, the first symptom is a lump, or a testicle growing or becoming swollen. If you have a lump, swelling, or any of these symptoms, see your doctor immediately:

  • A feeling of heaviness or sudden swelling in the scrotum

  • A dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin

  • Pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum

  • Breast tissue enlargement or tenderness

  • Early puberty in boys, including a deepening voice and facial and body hair growth.

These symptoms may be caused by other non-cancerous conditions, like infections, testicular injury, or inflammation (orchitis). It’s also possible that testicular cancer may have no symptoms, even if it spreads. Or, you may experience some of the following:

  • Low back pain

  • Shortness of breath, chest pain, or a cough

  • Belly pain

  • Headaches or confusion

Testicular Cancer Causes And Risk Factors

The exact cause of testicular cancer is unknown, although researchers believe genetic changes may be involved. Risk factors may include:

  • Cryptorchidism – a rare condition involving one or both testicles failing to descend from the belly into the scrotum before birth

  • Family history

  • HIV infection

  • Carcinoma in situ of the testicle

As testicular cancer may have no symptoms, and some risk factors can’t be changed, generally, it can’t be prevented. Regular monthly testicular self-exams are advised, and if found early, testicular cancer may be treated before spreading. If you do notice anything, quickly report it to your doctor.

Learn More About Testicular Cancer

With testicular cancer rates rising, it’s important to recognize its symptoms and alert your doctor for any changes. If you’d like to speak with our male reproductive health specialists or you have questions involving fertility preservation, schedule a consultation with the Fertility Center of California today.

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