What Testicular cancer?
A relatively rare cancer that usually affects one testicle.
What are the main symptoms?
The key symptoms to look out for are:
- A lump in either testicle
- Any enlargement of the testicle
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- A dull ache in the abdomen or groin
- A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
- Tenderness or enlargement of the breasts
It’s important to remember that testicular cancer may not cause any discomfort or pain, especially in the early stages. The most common symptom is a small painless lump. Any of these symptoms can also have benign causes, but they should always be checked by a doctor. As some of these symptoms aren’t always obvious, it’s important to check your testicles.
How Do I Check My Testicles?
It’s pretty easy. It is best to examine your testicles after a warm bath or shower.
- Support your balls in the palm of one hand. Note the size and weight of your testicles. This will help you to detect any changes in the future.
- Find the epididymis, the tube that carries sperm to the penis. This can be felt at the top and back of each testicle. This is one lump that is supposed to be there.
- Now examine each testicle in more detail by rolling it between your fingers and thumb. Press firmly but gently to feel for any lumps, swelling or changes in firmness.
Examine yourself every couple of months or when you feel like it. Testicular cancer is very uncommon so don’t get obsessed with it. But if you do find anything unusual, don’t wait for it to disappear or start throbbing – see your doctor.
What’s the Risk?
Testicular cancer is the most common cancer affecting men ages 20-35 but the lifetime risk of developing the disease is still only 1 in 400. That compares with 1 in 12 for lung cancer and for prostate cancer. However, the incidence of testicular cancer is increasing – in fact, its doubled in the past 20 years. The risks are greater for men who were born with undescended testicles. Men with a brother or father who had a testicular tumour have a 6-10 times higher risk of developing this cancer.
What Causes It?
The causes aren’t yet fully understood. However, the fact that men who develop testicular cancer are more likely to have had undescended testicles, and to be affected by fertility problems, suggests sort of common cause.
One plausible theory, not yet fully proven, is that testicular tissues are damaged while male foetuses are still developing, possibly as a result of their mother’s exposure to environmental pollutants which are chemically similar to the female hormone oestrogen. It may be that male foetuses are being overexposed to oestrogen and that, as a result, some develop a range of problems with their reproductive systems. Some studies have also linked testicular cancer to a sedentary lifestyle in boys, although further research is needed to confirm this.