Testicular Cancer Symptoms and Signs

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

Cancer of the testicles (testicular cancer) is an uncommon condition that accounts for only about 1% of all cancers in men. Each year, approximately 8,000 new cases of testicular cancer will occur in the U.S., leading to approximately 360 deaths.

Doctors do not know the exact cause of testicular cancer, but a number of risk factors for development of this disease have been identified. Young men between the ages of 15 and 39 are most often affected. White men are affected more than men of other races, although the disease can occur in men of any age and race, including children. Men who have an undescended testicle (termed cryptorchidism), even if surgery has been performed to remedy the condition, have an increased risk for the development of testicular cancer. Other risk factors include the genetic condition known as Klinefelter's syndrome, abnormal development of the testicles, and having relatives with testicular cancer.

Testicular cancer is highly curable when detected early, and 95% of patients with testicular cancer are alive after a five-year period. However, about half of men with testicular cancer do not seek treatment until the cancer has spread beyond the testicles to other locations in the body (as in the case of seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong).

Most testicular cancers are found by men themselves. There is no routine standard for screening for testicular cancer, since screening programs have not shown a decrease in mortality (death rate) from the condition. However, some men choose to perform an examination of their testicles once a month (referred to as TSE or testicular self-examination) to facilitate detection of testicular cancer in its early, treatable stage. The TSE involves gentle examination of the testicles, one at a time, holding each testicle between the thumb (on top) and middle and index fingers below. Look for any small, hard lumps within the testicles or changes in the feel of the testicles.