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Testicular Cancer 101

What is Testicular Cancer? (versión en español)

Testicular cancer can develop in one or both testicles. Most tumors are metastatic, meaning they have the ability to spread to other organs, such as the lymph system, lungs and brain, leading to serious illness or death.

Testicular cancer is rare, accounting for about 1% of all male cancers. However, testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer in men ages 15-35.

Every year, in the U.S., an estimated 8500 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer and 350 die from the disease. That averages to every hour of every day some man hears, “You have testicular cancer.”

Testicular cancer is one of the most treatable cancers, especially if caught early. If caught at an early stage, before it has spread, the survival rate is almost 100% but if caught at a late stage the rate drops to 80%.

Approximately 1 in 250 men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer. Thanks to early detection and advanced treatments, only approximately 1 in 5000 men will die from testicular cancer.

What are the Risk Factors for Testicular Cancer?

Testicular cancer is most often diagnosed in Caucasian men between the ages of 15-35. However, it can occur in men of any age and race.

Strong connections between certain lifestyles, habits or activities, such as bike riding, have not been made with testicular cancer.

Certain conditions such as undescended testicle(s), abnormal testicular development and a family history of testicular cancer may increase the odds of developing testicular cancer.

It is Important to remember that many men who develop testicular cancer have no risk factors at all.

What are the Signs of Testicular Cancer?

Men themselves, not doctors, find most testicular cancers as a painless lump or an enlargement or hardening of the testicle, this is why regular self-exams are so important. If you do notice any lumps or changes it is important to see a doctor immediately. Many men with testicular cancer do not feel ill and many times there is no pain involved.

Other Signs of Testicular Cancer are:

  • Any enlargement of a testicle
  • A significant loss of size in one of the testicles
  • A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
  • A dull ache in the lower abdomen, back or in the groin
  • A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
  • Pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum
  • Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts

Are You a Man? THEN SELF EXAM!!!

Monthly self-testicular exams are important to notice changes in one’s testicles. Most testicular cancers are found by men themselves or their partner, very few are found by a physician. Self-testicular exams allow you to become familiar with your testicles thus making it easier to notice any changes. If you do notice any changes then see a doctor immediately.

It is best to do the self-testicular exam during or right after a warm shower or bath. The warmth relaxes the scrotum making the exam easier. Don't be alarmed if one testicle seems slightly larger than the other, that's normal. It is also normal that one testicle will hang lower than the other.

How to do a self testicular exam (see diagram examples)

1. If possible, stand in front of a mirror. Check for any swelling on the scrotal skin.

2. Examine each testicle with both hands. Place the index and middle fingers under the testicle with the thumbs placed on top. Firm but gently roll the testicle between the thumbs and fingers to feel for any irregularities on the surface or texture of the testicle.

3. Find the epididymis, a soft rope-like structure on the back of the testicle. If you are familiar with this structure, you won't mistake it for a suspicious lump.

If you notice any lumps or irregularities see a doctor right away. Keep in mind that not all lumps or irregularities are cancerous, however, only a doctor can make that determination. Waiting to see if it will go away will not help you.

Now that you have learned how to do a self-exam just don’t throw that knowledge away.

Do your self-exam monthly; it can save your life.

You can find more basic information on Testicular Cancer via this podcast from MD Anderson

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