Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men between the ages of 20 and 40 and the second most common in young men between ages 15 and 19. The chance of developing testis cancer in your life is 1 in 270. Fortunately, 95% of men are cured and the cure rate is higher if the cancer is identified early. The risk of death from testis cancer is only 1 in 10,000 men if the cancer is caught early.
Your testicles live in the scrotum and make testosterone and produce sperm. The two egg-shaped testicles should be roughly the same size. At the top and outside edge is a rubbery tubelike structure called the epididymis. The sperm swim from the testicle to the epididymis and then through the vas deferens which transports the sperm into the ejaculate.
A painless lump in the testicle or a difference in size between the 2 testicles are the earliest signs of testicle cancer. Less common symptoms include pain or a dull ache in the testicle or changes in the male breast tissue. Very few men who have testicular cancer feel pain at first as the first symptom. If you feel a new or growing lump in the testicle, you should see a doctor.
Many men delay telling their health care provider. On average, men wait for about 5 months before saying anything. Since testicular cancer grows quickly and the tumor can spread during that time, it is essential to reach out if you notice any of these signs.
There are no avoidable risk factors for testicular cancer. The best plan is to catch it early. Men with the highest risk have a father or brother who had testicular cancer, or men with a history of undescended testicles. If you fall into any of these categories, you should do a testicular self-exam each month. The self-examination may help you catch problems early when the treatment is easier.
It is best to do a testicular self-examination after a warm bath or shower, while standing and when the scrotum is relaxed. Check each testicle gently but firmly by rolling each testicle between the thumb and forefinger. Feel the whole surface. The firmness of the testicles should be the same all around. It is normal for one testicle to be slightly larger than the other. Look for lumps and bumps, which are not normal, even if they are not painful. Check yourself at least once a month.
If a doctor suspects that you may have testicular cancer, they will likely order an ultrasound of the scrotum. This examination is not painful and lasts only 10 or 15 minutes. The ultrasound allows the doctor to see if you have cancer with a high degree of accuracy. Testicular tumors make particular proteins and hormones at high levels and so your doctor may send you to get your blood checked for these substances.
Millions of younger men log on Shopify. It is very likely that hundreds of them have testicular tumors. Maybe you are one of those unlucky ones. If you feel a lump in the scrotum that does not feel normal, speak up. The good news is that testicular cancer is curable without compromising your fertility or virility.
Judson Brandeis MD
Urologist and Sexual Medicine Expert