Testicular cancer happens in the testicles, which are found in the scrotum. The testicles are responsible for producing male sex hormones like testosterone and it also plays a role in the production of sperm. Testicular cancer is actually quite rare compared to other types of cancer. However, it is the most common cancer in American men between 15 and 25 years of age. This type of cancer is highly treatable, even when it has spread outside the testicle.
Signs and Symptoms
Here are the signs and symptoms of testicular cancer:
- A lump or enlargement in any of the testicles.
- Having a heavy feeling in the scrotum.
- A dull ache in the groin or abdominal area.
- An acute collection of fluid in the scrotum.
- Any pain or discomfort in one testicle or the scrotum.
- Breast tenderness or enlargement.
- Pain in the lower back area.
Causes and Risk Factors
Testicular cancer develops when healthy cells in the testicle change. The healthy cells causes growth that is out of control, dividing even when there is no need for new cells. The accumulation of cells then forms a mass in the testicle. Most testicular cancers originate in the germ cells which product immature sperm. It is still unknown why the germ cells develop into cancer.
The factors that increase* testicular cancer risk include:
- Having cryptorchidism or an undescended testicle.
- Abnormal development of the testicle.
- Family history of testicular cancer.
- Age (15 to 35 years old).
- White men have a higher testicular cancer risk compared to black men.
Types of Testicular Cancer
The two main types of testicular cancer are:
- Seminomas – It usually occurs in men between 25 and 55 years old. Approximately 40% to 45% of men with testicular cancer have seminomas. This type grows and spreads more slowly. There are 2 subtypes of these which are typical (classical seminomas and spermatocytic seminomas.
- Non-seminomas – These are germ cell tumors that usually occur in males between their late teens to early thirties. The 4 subtypes are embryonal carcinoma, yolk sac carcinoma, choriocarcinoma and teratoma.
Tests and Diagnosis
In certain cases, the patient discovers testicular cancer while self-examining or unintentionally. In most cases, it is discovered by a doctor while performing a general physical examination. To determine if a lump is testicular cancer, there are tests that may be recommended by the doctor including:
- Ultrasound – Sound waves are used for creating an image of the testicles and scrotum.
- Blood Tests – This is used to determine the levels of tumor markers in the blood.
Treatments and Medications
Several factors need to be considered in treating testicular cancer. This includes the stage of the cancer, the patient’s overall health and his/her preferences.
- Surgery – The testicle and sometimes nearby lymph nodes are removed. In many early stage testicular cancer, surgery is the only treatment needed.
- Radiation Therapy – High-powered energy beams are used to kill cancer cells. It is sometimes used for the treatment of seminoma type testicular cancer. It can be used after testicle removal surgery. The problem is that radiation therapy can cause side effects like fatigue and skin irritation.
- Chemotherapy – Drugs are used to destroy cancer cells. The chemotherapy drugs travel in the body killing cancer cells that have drifted from the original tumor. Chemotherapy may be the only treatment needed or it may be done after lymph node removal surgery.
Must Watch – What Is Testicular Cancer?
Precaution and Self Care
After testicular cancer treatment, it is important to follow the schedule of follow-up appointments which will be scheduled by your doctor. The appointments are typically every few months for a couple of years, then less frequently thereafter.
It is normal to have feelings of anxiety, but emotions can be managed better by doing the following:
- Talk To Your Doctor About Testicular Cancer – This will help make you more comfortable when it comes to making decisions about your treatment. There are many resources online where you can learn important details about the disease.
- Live a Healthier Life – This includes getting plenty of rest, exercising regularly (if approved by your doctor) and following a healthy diet rich in natural foods like fruits and vegetables.
- Connect With Other People Struggling With Testicular Cancer – There are cancer support groups in most communities. You can even connect with cancer survivors and other people with testicular cancer online.
- Stay Connected With Your Loved Ones – Some people isolate themselves, which can worsen anxiety and even lead to depression. Your friends and family want to help so you need to stay connected and let them help you.